Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute Vascular Disease Program
We have decades of experience caring for patients with Vascular Disease as part of our Vascular Disease Program, pioneering minimally invasive treatments and leading research for new treatments to improve patient outcomes.
What are spider veins?
Spider veins are caused by the dilation of a small group of veins near the skin's surface. They often occur on the face and legs. They look like red or purple sunbursts or web patterns. They are more common in women.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are swollen or enlarged veins. They most often appear on the thighs, the backs and fronts of the calves, or near the ankles and feet. The veins have enlarged due to a weakening or damage in the vein valves. They are found deeper in the skin than spider veins. They may be raised, bulging, or twisted. They are often are blue, red, or flesh colored. If you have varicose veins, your legs may feel tired, heavy, or achy after sitting or standing for a long time. They may feel better when you put your legs up.
Varicose veins can be serious because they may be painful. They may also be linked with health problems such as:
Phlebitis. This is inflammation of the vein.
Thromboses. This occurs when blood clots form in the enlarged vein.
Venous stasis ulcers. An ulcer is formed when there is not normal drainage in the enlarged vein.
The exact causes for varicose and spider veins are unknown. But pregnancy, heredity, obesity, standing for a long time, increased age, heavy lifting, and hormonal changes may all be causes.
Treatment for spider and varicose veins
Treatment may include:
Compression therapy. Wearing compression stocking can help the symptoms of varicose veins.
Sclerotherapy. This procedure involves the injection of a concentrated saline or specially-developed solution into the spider or small varicose vein. The solution irritates the inside of the vein and over time the vein will collapse and fade. Healthier blood vessels located nearby absorb the blood flow of the collapsed vein.
Ambulatory phlebectomy. This involves the removal of the vein by tiny punctures or incisions along the path of the enlarged vein. Through these tiny holes, the surgeon uses a surgical hook to remove the varicose vein.
Electrodesiccation. This involves the sealing of the veins with the use of an electrical current.
Laser surgery and intense pulsed light therapy. Abnormal veins are destroyed by high-intensity laser beams or intense pulsating light.
Surgical ligation and stripping. This procedure involves the surgeon making an incision in the skin and removing or tying off the blood vessel. This procedure is done for severe cases of varicose veins.
Intravascular laser or radiofrequency ablation. A laser fiber or radiofrequency catheter is put into the abnormal vein. The vein is then sealed shut by thermal energy
Possible complications of treatment for spider or varicose veins
Possible complications include:
Changes in skin color. Brownish splotches near the treated area may appear, and may take several months (or even up to a year) to fade.
Allergic reaction and scarring. Allergic reactions from the injected chemical solution, as well as skin injury and permanent scarring, may result.
Telangiectatic matting. This reaction involves the appearance of fine, reddish blood vessels near the treated area. Treatment for this condition may require further injections.
Blood clots. Treatment could cause blood clots in the veins.
Who might have sclerotherapy?
Women and men of any age may be candidates for sclerotherapy, but most are 30 to 60 years in age. Spider veins are more common in women. Men do have spider veins, but often do not consider them to be a cosmetic problem because the veins are usually concealed by hair on the leg.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should postpone sclerotherapy treatment. Further, it is not known how sclerosing solutions may affect breast milk.
Before the procedure
The surgery may be done in any of these places:
Surgery center as an outpatient
Hospital as an outpatient or inpatient
You may be given local anesthesia with IV sedation. You may have epidural or spinal anesthesia. Or you may have general anesthesia.
After the procedure
A compression bandage may be put on the treated area. You may be advised to wear support hose for days or longer.