Spider veins are small dilated blood vessels that have a red or bluish color. They appear mostly on the legs, occasionally on the face or elsewhere, and are often unwanted. They can be short, unconnected lines each about the size of a large hair or connected in a scraggly “sunburst” pattern. They may also look like a spider web or a tree with branches. Sometimes, they occur in a small area and are not very noticeable, or they can cover a large area of the skin and be quite unattractive.
Larger dilated blood vessels called varicose veins may be raised above the skin surface. They can occur along with spider veins. Some people with varicosities may experience pain ranging from a dull throbbing to a burning sensation. These larger veins are more likely to cause discomfort.
Sclerotherapy is a treatment for enlarged small vessels mainly of the lower extremities. The process consists of injecting small amounts of either hypertonic saline or Soltradecol into each site. This procedure has been used for large veins and spider veins since the 1930’s. The saline solution destroys the lining of the blood vessel, causing it to swell and stick together. Over a period of weeks, the vessel turns into scar tissue that fades and eventually becomes barely noticeable or invisible.
Although unwanted blood vessels carry blood, the great majority of spider veins are not necessary for blood flow. If they are unsightly or uncomfortable, they can be treated. After several treatments, most patients can expect a 50% to 90% improvement.