Spider veins not only sound ominous, they look a little scary, too. Like varicose veins, spider veins are raised, twisted veins visible on the skin's surface, but they are much smaller than varicose veins. Generally red, blue or purple in color, they look like clusters of tiny tree branches or spider webs and can be found in small or large areas of the skin. They usually appear on the face or on the legs and feet [source: National Women's Health Information Center, WebMD].
Spider veins do not tend to hurt, but they can be unsightly and present a cosmetic problem. Fortunately, several treatments are available. To understand these treatments, it is important to know what causes spider veins. They can result from the same circulatory problems that cause varicose veins. When veins in the legs weaken or experience too much pressure because of weight, pregnancy, age, injury or long periods of time on one's feet, blood becomes trapped and enlarges the veins. Sun exposure, hormonal changes and genetics can also cause spider veins to appear [source: National Women's Health Information Center, WebMD].
Spider veins do not tend to cause people as much trouble as varicose veins do. Lifestyle changes can help alleviate spider veins and prevent more from developing. Some of these changes include elevating the legs, reducing weight gain, exercising, wearing sunscreen, and wearing support or compression stockings. However, if these remedies fail and spider veins continue to be a nuisance, you might want to consider laser treatment.
Simple laser treatment involves applying laser heat to the affected area -- this damages the vein and causes it to eventually die and disappear. It is a non-invasive procedure that can be performed on an outpatient basis. The sensation of the laser light hitting the skin can be painful to some people, but the procedure generally isn't too uncomfortable. A doctor should be able to minimize any potential damage to treated skin, but simple laser treatment can result in skin burns, redness, discoloration, swelling and other forms of irritation. All of these are temporary side effects [source: Essig, National Women's Health Information Center].
Studies have proven simple laser treatment to be safe and effective overall. However, treatment results and risks vary from person to person. You should discuss any concerns with your doctor before pursuing it. Given the mild nature of most spider veins, you might want to try lifestyle adjustments before undergoing more costly laser treatment.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Essig, Maria G. WebMD. "Laser Treatment for Varicose Veins." WebMD. February 11, 2008. (Accessed 9/13/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/laser-treatment-for-varicose-veins
- Mayo Clinic. "Varicose Veins." January 16, 2009. (Accessed 9/29/09)http://mayoclinic.com/health/varicose-veins/DS00256
- Nabili, Siamak. "Varicose Veins and Spider Veins." Medicine Net. (Accessed 9/29/09)http://www.medicinenet.com/varicose_veins/article.htm
- National Women's Health Information Center. "Varicose Veins and Spider Veins." Women's Health. December 1, 2005. (Accessed 9/13/09)http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/varicose-spider-veins.cfm#j
- WebMD. "Varicose Veins and Spider Veins." February 28, 2008. (Accessed 9/13/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/varicose-spider-veins