Spider Veins Overview

What Are Spider Veins?

Spider veins are dense clusters of small veins that appear just underneath the skin’s surface. They might be reddish, bluish, or purple in color, and they usually appear in dense clusters that expand outwards from a central point, similar to branches or spider webs. Spider veins usually occur on the legs or feet, but they can also appear anywhere else on the body. A circulatory disorder known as chronic venous insufficiency is usually the root cause of spider veins.

What Causes Spider Veins?

Spider veins are usually caused by an underlying circulatory disorder known as chronic venous insufficiency. The human body contains two types of blood vessels – veins and arteries. The veins are responsible for carrying blood from the extremities of the body, such as the legs and arms, to the heart. Healthy veins contain one-way valves that only allow blood to flow towards the heart, often against the force of gravity. Venous insufficiency is a medical condition wherein the vein valves collapse and blood flows backward and pools in the leg veins. The accumulation of blood in leg veins leads to the formation of unhealthy spider veins below the skin’s surface.

Chronic venous insufficiency may happen because of numerous underlying factors. According to the Office of Women’s Health in America, over 54% of women and 45% of men experience spider veins and varicose veins in the United States. Patients with spider veins often experience other symptoms of vein disease as well, such as leg heaviness, restless leg syndrome, frequent leg cramps, and leg pain. Furthermore, vein disease worsens with long periods of inactivity, such as sitting or standing still for extended periods, so you may experience some comfort when you move around or exercise.

Who Is at Risk for Spider Veins?

The incidence of spider veins is fairly high in both sexes in adulthood, but women are more likely to develop vein problems than men. That’s because estrogen and progesterone, the hormones more abundant in women, can weaken the vein valves, increasing the risk of vein disease. For that same reason, the risk of spider veins increases with pregnancy, hormone therapy, and birth control pills. Genetic predisposition is one of the leading risk factors for spider veins – if both your parents have a history of vein problems, you have a 90% chance of vein disease. Other risk factors for spider veins and vein disease are a history of blood clots, leg injuries, and jobs that involve long periods of sitting or standing still, such as driving, nursing, and teaching.

What Causes Spider Veins?

Spider veins are usually asymptomatic, but they might be accompanied by the signs and symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency. The earliest warning signs of vein disease include leg heaviness, frequent leg cramps, leg pain, restless leg syndrome, itching, swelling, tingling, and more. Extreme vascular disease can also lead to the formation of leg ulcers or skin changes on the legs.

What Are the Symptoms of Spider Veins?

Fortunately, the actual spider veins are often asymptomatic, primarily affecting our appearance. However, the venous insufficiency that causes them can produce many bothersome symptoms, like cramping, aching, burning, throbbing, heaviness, itching, swelling, or tingling in the legs. Patients with more severe cases of vascular disease might also experience changes in their skin and difficulty healing from ulcerations they develop.

How Do Doctors Treat Spider Veins?

Spider veins are asymptomatic, and they’re not always caused by vein disease. If you don’t have any pain, leg heaviness, or other symptoms of vein disease, you might not need vein treatment. However, you should still consult a vein doctor to determine if you have underlying vein disease and for aesthetic purposes. Your vein doctor may use sclerotherapy to remove the unsightly spider veins, restoring your leg’s beauty.

What are the best spider vein treatments?

You must consult a reliable vein doctor in Maryland who diagnoses and treats the root cause of your spider veins – not just the unsightly veins. Treating spider veins without addressing the root cause is like painting over a stained wall instead of fixing the leaky pipes underneath – the stains will inevitably return. Below, we provide an overview of the spider vein treatment options.


This is a simple, in-office procedure that can effectively remove spider veins. The vein doctor injects a sclerosant medicine into the spider veins to fuse their vein walls, turning them into hardened scar tissues eventually absorbed by the body. However, this treatment can only remove the visible spider veins; it doesn’t address the underlying vein disease.

Endоvеnоuѕ Lаѕеr Ablation:

This is a minimally invasive treatment for chronic venous insufficiency. The vein doctor makes a small incision on the skin’s surface to insert a catheter with a laser fiber that channels laser energy to collapse the diseased vein. The accumulated blood reroutes into healthier leg veins, restoring optimal blood circulation to the heart. The treatment concludes within 30 minutes and there is no downtime.

Radiofrequency Ablation:

This is a minimally invasive treatment for chronic venous insufficiency, the root cause of spider veins. The vein doctor inserts a catheter into the diseased vein and channels thermal energy to seal it shut, rerouting the accumulated blood into healthier leg veins. The treatment concludes within 30 minutes and involves minimal post-treatment discomfort.

Laser Therapy:

For those most concerned with the appearance of spider veins, skin laser therapy is a great solution. It’s most effective on the smaller veins, and works well in conjunction with, or as an alternative to sclerotherapy. Since it primarily targets the visibility of spider veins, it won’t improve symptoms of underlying venous insufficiency. Ask your vein doctor if it’s right for you, since some skin types don’t respond well to laser therapy.

Compression Stockings:

Also known as support stockings, you should wear these skin-tight socks to apply pressure on your spider veins. They won’t treat spider veins or the root cause, but they might alleviate the leg pain and other symptoms of vein disease, at least temporarily. You must wear properly fitted compression stockings for pain relief, so please contact our vein doctors in Maryland.

Daily Exercise:

If you have spider veins and the signs of vein disease, you should ideally focus on daily exercises that work your calf muscles. Cardiovascular exercises, such as running, swimming, and cycling, improve blood circulation, while engaging your calf muscles to push blood towards the heart. If you already have vein disease, exercise won’t treat the underlying problem, but it may alleviate the leg pain and discomfort. You should also elevate your legs while sitting and avoid sitting or standing still for extended periods.