What are spider veins?
Spider Veins are small veins on the surface of the skin that are so called because the pattern often resembles the strands of a spider web. The appearance can vary from single strands to a central vessel from which a circular spider pattern originates. When the veins form a cluster that can resemble a bruise they are called a Venular flare. Spider Veins can appear with or without feeding larger blue veins.
The colour of Spider veins varies from fine red veins to thicker blue veins that can bulge slightly on the surface. There are many factors that seem to be involved with the development of spider veins including hormones, pregnancy and family history.
Top 5 things about spider veins
- Spider Veins on the legs are very common, often run in families and more common in women.
- Whilst Spider Veins are unsightly and often look like permanent bruises they can also cause symptoms especially heaviness, tiredness and aching.
- The 3 ways of best treating Spider Veins are by micro injections, surface Laser or surface Radiofrequency.
- Spider Veins progressively worsen and getting them under control and then maintenance treatments are the most effective management
- If Varicose Veins and Spider Veins occur together it is often necessary to treat the larger and deeper veins first.
How common are spider veins?
Spider veins are certainly more common in women and some studies suggest that as many as 50% of women develop Spider Veins at some stage.
Why do people want spider veins treated?
Certainly most people find that Spider Veins look unsightly and wish to improve the appearance of their legs. However Spider Veins can also cause symptoms and it is surprisingly common and the severity of symptoms is not always correlated with the size of the Spider Veins. One study found that 53% of patients with veins smaller than 1 mm in size complained of symptoms such as swelling, burning, throbbing , cramping and tiredness. Often the symptoms of leg vein disease can be quite insidious and patients don’t realise how good their legs can feel until after treatment. It is fairly common for women to notice more symptoms from either Varicose or Spider veins in the premenstrual period.
When Spider veins are associated with significant pressure from deeper veins the spider veins can bleed if they are knocked. This can be a reason to treat spider veins especially in the elderly where bleeding can be difficult to stop. Generally however, unlike Varicose veins, there is not much evidence that spider veins alone result in long term complications.
What is the best way to treat spider veins?
Spider Veins are treated by surface based treatments and there are basically 3 main ways that this is done:
- Surface Injections: This is called Microsclerotherapy because it involves the use of very fine (micro) needles to inject a solution to seal off (sclerose) to treat and destroy leg veins ( therapy). For more information look at our Sclerotherapy page.
- Surface Laser: This is a process called Photocoagulation because light (photo) is used to seal off the unwanted spider veins. Different laser wavelengths can be needed depending on whether the spider veins are blue or red. Skin cooling is important.
- Surface Radiofrequency: This is a process that uses a machine called the VEINGOGH that produces radiofrequency energy to heat up and shut down the veins. A tiny probe touches the skin and short pulses of radiofrequency heat are delivered.
The majority of patients with Spider veins respond best to Sclerotherapy treatment. This is regarded as the gold standard treatment for leg veins, and as well as the most effective option for the majority of patients, it is also a versatile procedure that can target larger Varicose veins at the same time.
Laser and Radiofrequency treatments are reserved for the smallest of spider veins where the veins are so small it can be difficult to insert a needle into them. Sometimes after sclerotherapy residual tiny veins can be tidied up by laser or radiofrequency. The non-injection treatments can also be preferred if a patient is extremely needle phobic.
What if there are both varicose and spider veins?
It is quite common to have both Varicose Veins and Spider Veins at the same time. If the Spider Veins are in the same area as the Varicose Veins then better results are achieved if the larger and deeper Varicose Veins are treated first. If Spider Veins are treated without correcting any underlying pressure from Varicose Veins then the results from treatment will be slower and there is a greater chance of developing bruising and staining of the skin from the treatment.
What are the likely costs?
Surface injections cost $320 per treatment session. A Medicare rebate can apply if there are associated Varicose Veins being treated that are large enough to qualify otherwise no rebate is applicable.
Surface laser and surface radiofrequency do not qualify for any rebate and gst is also applicable. The usual cost for a treatment session with either Laser or Radiofrequency is $363 ($330 + gst).
Private health insurance funds do not provide any rebate for spider vein treatments.
Leg vein services and costs
Leg Vein Consultation
Meet with a Doctor to discuss your individual case and requirements
$190 (Medicare rebate available)
If additional scanning is needed to further identify vein problem areas. One leg is $350 where as both is $450
$350-$450 (Medicare rebate available)
Can qualify for Medicare rebate depending on the size of the veins
$320 per treatment
No Medicare rebate and GST of 10% is applicable
$363 per treatment
Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy
$950 for initial treatment and then $350 for all subsequent treatments within 12 month of the initial treatment. Medicare provides a partial rebate
$950 and $350 thereafter
Catheter Guided Laser/Radiofrequency
Medicare provides a partial rebate and out of pocket expenses may be able to be claimed on income tax return