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What are Spider Veins?

Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan

Spider veins, also known as telangiectasia, are small blood vessels near the surface of the skin that have become dilated. These veins, which are very small and thin, are part of the venous system, but are not essential to its functioning. Their appearance near the surface of the skin is not a medical problem, but is considered by many people to be unsightly, and so they are often removed for aesthetic reasons. Their removal and treatment is fairly straightforward, quite safe, and is a common cosmetic procedure.

Varicose veins are not the same as spider veins, as they are considerably larger, and may cause pain associated with an actual medical problem. Varicose veins can be treated as well, but the treatment is rarely as simple as spider veins, often requiring surgery of some sort. Because varicose veins can represent a serious medical condition, it is important to have them looked at by a medical professional. Spider veins, on the other hand, are much more straightforward, and a cosmetic professional may be all that is required to diagnose and deal with them.


The appearance of spider veins can be triggered by any number of factors, especially weight gain and hormonal shifting. Pregnancy is a common cause of spider veins, because the body has a great deal of hormonal swinging, and weight is gained and shed in a relatively short period of time. Sitting in a stationary position for long periods of time can also cause spider veins, so people with jobs that require sitting in one place all day are likely to get spider veins later in life, especially if they have a hereditary disposition towards their appearance.

There are three main forms spider veins appear in, each of which are indicative of the same underlying condition. One type are simply linear spider veins, where straight lines running roughly parallel to each other form. Another type are arborizing spider veins, where the veins seem to branch out from one another in a tree-like form. And the last type are true spider veins, which appear with a dark central node that has radiating spider veins out from it. Linear veins are often seen on the inside of the knee, while arborizing veins most often appear on the thigh.

Sclerotherapy is most commonly used to treat the appearance of spider veins, and it is a relatively simple and painless procedure. It takes anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour for a session, during which a sclerosing agent is injected into the veins. A single injection is used for every square inch (6.5 sq. cm), which can be anywhere between ten and fifty injections for a full session. The needle is very small, however, so little pain is usually associated with the procedure, although a small tingling sensation may be detected.

After undergoing sclerotherapy, the spider veins will for a brief time appear much worse than they did at first. They must be kept under wraps for about three days, and after that bruising may be visible for around a month. A light brownness can be visible for up to a year. Once these conditions clear up, however, the skin appears completely clear and fresh.

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