WHAT IS A SPIDER VEIN?
Spider vein is a general term that is commonly used to refer to small superficial red or blue veins that occur on the surface of the skin. The size of Spider veins is usually 0.1 to 1.0 mm in diameter. The colour varies from bright red small vessels on the arterial side of the circulation to wider blue vessels that originate from the venous side and may protrude above the surface of the skin.
The appearance can vary from simple lines like the strands of a spider web (Linear) to a branching pattern like a tree branch (Arborizing) to a more circular star pattern that as name suggests resembles a spider web (Spider).
WHY DO SPIDER VEINS DEVELOP?
Many factors are involved in the development of Spider Veins including skin type and family history. Different factors seem to be important in different areas of the body. When Spider Veins occur on the face and chest, inflammatory factors from the environment are implicated notably sun exposure, wind and cold. In contrast when spider veins occur on the legs hormonal factors and pregnancy are more important factors.
CAN SPIDER VEINS CAUSE PROBLEMS?
The main reason that people request treatment of Spider Veins is because they dislike the appearance. On the face they can cause redness and flushing which is aggravated by anything that heats up the body such as exercise, hot spicy foods, saunas and alcohol. A very common concern when they occur on the nose is that patients worry that others will think they are heavy drinkers.
Patients with spider veins on the legs frequently complain that people are always asking about the bruise like appearance of their legs. Whilst leg spider veins are usually asymptomatic, they can cause symptoms such as heaviness, tiredness and aching. These symptoms are typically aggravated by prolonged standing and in women can be more severe at the start of their menstrual cycle.
WHERE DO SPIDER VEINS OCCUR?
Spider veins can actually occur nearly anywhere on the skin but the commonest areas by far are on the face and the legs. Other fairly frequent areas are on the shoulders, chest wall and lower back.
FACIAL SPIDER VEINS
Spider veins on the face typically occur on the nose. They are more common in men and can range from small red vessels to larger dark blue or even purple coloured veins. As they become larger they can start to protrude above the skin’s surface. These facial spider veins can be quite unsightly and difficult to cover with makeup and many people are concerned they give the appearance of being a heavy drinker. Fortunately very good results can be achieved with medical laser or radiofrequency treatments.
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LEG SPIDER VEINS
The commonest site for spider veins by far is on the legs. These superficial veins are more common in women with some studies suggesting as many as 50% of women develop some degree of spider veins on their legs at some stage. There is often a family history and the severity typically worsens progressively as people get older. These leg veins can be treated very effectively with surface based treatments including microinjections (Sclerotherapy) and heat based technologies of Laser or Radiofrequency (Veingogh).
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