Leg spider veins – also called thread veins or broken veins – are very common. Almost 50% of adults are affected and so many people are interested in how to get rid of these unsightly blemishes. Well I am going to tell you 7 essential facts about leg spider veins you must know.
- What are spider veins? Well the medical term for this condition is telangiectasia. They are enlarged blood vessels actually in or near the skin. They usually measure less than a millimetre and typically occur around the ankle, inner knee area and on the outer thigh.
- Who gets thread veins? Well anyone can get them. They are more common as we get older. So for example about one in five people in their 20’s have them, whereas 3 quarters of people over 60 have them. Both men and women are affected but in my practice I mainly see women for thread veins as they are more likely to want to have them removed to improve the appearance of their legs.
- What causes them? Well, for the majority of people with thread veins, there is a problem with the valves of the superficial veins – either in the larger vein called the saphenous vein, or in smaller veins called reticular veins or feeder veins. That’s why it is very important to have a duplex ultrasound scan before deciding how to treat spider veins. A duplex scan will identify which veins have faulty valves and how best this can be put right. For the remainder, there may be aggravating factors but the cause is not known. These leg thread veins are called idiopathic. A duplex scan is needed to make sure that people with leg spider veins are classified correctly so they get the correct treatment.
- What is the best treatment for leg telangiectasias? Well firstly, any veins with faulty valves should be treated first. So this may mean endovenous laser for the unhealthy veins. Typically, this is performed under a local anaesthetic as a walk in walk out procedure. Endovenous laser has replaced surgical stripping as it is less invasive and gives much better results with no scarring. Once the larger unhealthy veins have been dealt with, then the smaller feeder veins and thread veins can be injected — a treatment called sclerotherapy.
- What is sclerotherapy? Sclerotherapy is the injection of a prescription medicine called a sclerosant into the broken veins. It works by removing the lining of the vein which then starts a healing process causing the vein to collapse and disperse.
- Can leg thread veins be treated with laser? Well, laser on the legs can make thread veins worse. Don’t confuse this with endovenous laser which I mentioned earlier. I am now talking about laser applied directly to the skin, not the laser treatment used inside the bigger veins under the skin. Laser cannot treat the feeder veins — the reticular veins- and most vein experts agree that sclerotherapy is superior to laser for the treatment of leg spider veins.
- How quickly do the broken veins fade? Treatment of leg thread veins takes time. Any reflux in larger veins must be dealt with first, then the feeder veins and thread veins can be injected. Typically 3 treatment sessions are needed with an interval of 6 to 12 weeks between each treatment session and then there is a healing process during which the thread veins fade. Now although summer may seem a long way away and none of us is wearing shorts right now, it is best to start treatment for leg thread veins as soon as possible.
- If you are not sure where to find a specialist who can treat your spider veins, the British Association of Sclerotherapists has a directory of vein experts around the UK. http://www.bassclerotherapy.com
Contact me today for a confidential chat
If you’re worried about your veins and would like a confidential chat please do get in touch. I am happy to offer simple advice by telephone or email for free and without obligation.
The VeinCare Centre also offers a screening assessment with our vascular technologist. For £25 you can have a scan with Wendy Parsons. She is not a doctor and so she could not give you medical advice but she can check your deep veins and your varicose veins and give you an idea of how bad they are and whether laser might be suitable for you. If you would like to have an appointment with Wendy please call 0800 698 3467.