Beauty 101: How To Prevent & Treat Spider Veins

Up to 84% of women have spider veins somewhere on their body. The might not be painful or harmful like the varicose variety, but they can easily affect your self-esteem – especially as they worsen in appearance, over time. To find out how best to prevent and treat them, we asked two experts for their advice…

It’s Important To Know The Difference

“Spider veins are often confused with varicose veins but they’re entirely different,” explains Lesley Reynolds, leading beauty & aesthetics expert and co-founder of Harley Street Skin Clinic. “These types of little veins are tiny broken capillaries, whereas varicose are larger, lumpy blue or purple that bulge at the skin’s surface. They appear as little red threads that sit at the surface of the skin – sometimes, they’re barely visible to anyone else. Lifestyle choices such as alcohol and smoking are huge factors for spider veins, as is excessive sun exposure.” 

They Can Appear Anywhere

“It’s not unusual to see thread veins appear all over the body, but they’re most common on the face, around the legs, and often on the ankles, too,” adds Professor Mark Whiteley, consultant venous surgeon & founder of The Whiteley Clinic. “The reason is because the skin here is always open to the elements – think the sun, heat and radiation.” Lesley adds: “As for the legs, spider veins occur here when the valves of larger veins collapse and stop working properly. Because veins carry bloody flow back to the heart, they have little valves that prevent blood from flowing backward, so they have a one-way valve that closes once the blood passes through it. If this valve becomes weak or damaged, the blood may struggle to flow properly in the correct direction, and it can begin to collect inside the vein. This then causes a bulge in the vein that tries to find a way out, so it branches out, resulting in tiny, broken spider veins.”

There Are Numerous Causes

“People often assume genetics are to blame, and while it’s a contributing factor, it’s not the sole cause,” says Lesley. “Being overweight is a high-risk factor as it puts greater pressure on the veins. This in turn causes the veins and valves to weaken and break, leading to both spider and varicose veins. Another reason they appear is people commonly sit with their legs tucked underneath them – don’t do this as it restricts blood flow. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can be a key cause, too. Both increase pressure in the veins, so make sure you walk around and stretch out your legs every half hour or so to prevent this from happening.”

Treatment Options Do Exist

“Veins located in the leg are best treated using a treatment called micro-sclerotherapy,” advises Mark. “This involves injecting a diluted solution through a very small needle into the veins, which then permanently destroys the dilated blood vessels. As for the face, electro surgery (IPL) is the most effective for the more defined red veins in the cheeks and chin. Here, a current passes heat through the vein, which cauterises the vessel, causing the blood to clot. This then breaks down and is reabsorbed by the body, leaving the skin to heal. It sounds intense, but it’s minimally invasive and requires very little down time.” 

You Can Prevent Them From Worsening

“While nothing other than treatment can eradicate them fully, you can help to prevent them worsening by increasing your blood flow,” explains Lesley. “Take up walking as a gentle exercise and use compression tights if you stand or sit for long periods of time.” Mark adds: “There’s no good evidence to suggest any creams or tablets will help their appearance. Until you can seek the help of a specialist, watch your diet. Replace refined sugar with vegetables and fruit where possible, and get moving as much as possible, and elevate your legs regularly, too. The latter may sound simple, but it’s highly effective for improving venous circulation and preventing existing veins from worsening in appearance. If you have venous leg ulcers or brown stains around your ankles, try placing pillows under your legs while you sleep for extra elevation.” 

Remember To Keep An Eye Out For Any Changes 

“Usually, spider veins aren’t a sign of anything dangerous,” says Lesley. “However, if you’re worried, or they’ve appeared seemingly overnight, it’s good to check with your GP to put your mind at rest. Don’t be alarmed if you get them in pregnancy too – they commonly appear in women around this time as a result of weight gain and skin stretch.” Mark agrees: “While common, speak to a specialist venous consultant if you have any concerns. They can arrange a vascular technologist to give you a venous duplex scan at the earliest opportunity. This scan will tell the consultant whether there are any hidden problems and from here, they will be able to decide upon the best course of action.”

Fed Up Of Your Spider Veins? SL Recommends These Clinics For Treatment:

Harley Street Clinic, Central London 
Medicetics, London & Cirencester
L'Atelier Aesthetics, Harley Street
The Whiteley Clinic, Guildford
Pulse Light Clinic, London

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