Broken Veins: What They Are & How To Get Rid Of Them

Most women have spider veins – also known as broken veins – somewhere on their body or face. They might not be painful or harmful, but they can knock your confidence – especially as they tend to get worse over time. We asked the experts how best to prevent and treat them.

There Is A Difference

“Spider veins are often confused with varicose veins but they’re different. 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.” – Lesley Reynolds, co-founder of Harley Street Skin Clinic

“It’s important to know that broken veins are fairly common. They’re often associated with age and sun damage, but can be a feature of several conditions. That includes thinning skin, pregnancy, menopause and diseases like high blood pressure and liver disease. That said, they can also occur due to genetics, and through stretched skin – it’s not always doom and gloom.” – Dr David Jack, aesthetic doctor & founder of Dr David Jack Clinic

Topical Skincare Won’t Remedy The Issue

“I’m often asked if skincare can treat spider veins. The short answer is no. These vessels are deeper than skincare can realistically reach and, if these veins have already developed, there are no over-the-counter remedies that will reverse the process. Stimulating collagen deposition, using vitamin C and other antioxidants, as well as sunscreen, will prevent further skin damage and worsening of these veins. For those with rosacea, azelaic acid can reduce the redness and inflammation associated with thread veins, however, it’s unlikely to treat or remove these vessels.” – David

“No topical skincare will get rid of spider veins, but some products can help the overall appearance of your skin. That includes retinol (vitamin A) which boosts collagen and improves the texture of your complexion over time. That said, it won’t remove spider veins – it’ll just even out skin tone around them.” – Dr Uma Jeyanathan, founder of Uma Skin Clinic 

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. The reason is because the skin here is always open to the elements – think the sun, heat and radiation.” – Professor Mark Whiteley, consultant venous surgeon & founder of The Whiteley Clinic

“Spider veins occur on the legs 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.” – Lesley

Stimulating collagen deposition, using vitamin C and other antioxidants, as well as sunscreen, will prevent further skin damage and worsening of these veins.

There Are Numerous Causes

“People often assume genetics are to blame, but while it’s a contributing factor, it’s not the sole cause. 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. People also 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, as well. Both increase pressure in the veins, so make sure you walk and stretch out your legs every half hour or so.” – Lesley 

“I’ve already mentioned it, but UV light exposure is also strongly associated with the development of thread veins. This is because the damage caused by sun damage creates inflammation in the skin, which releases chemicals that not only break down the collagen and elastin structures surrounding vessels (causing skin to thin), but it also causes chemicals such as VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) to be released. This causes growth and dilatation of these vessels in sun-exposed areas.” – David

Treatment Options Do Exist

“Veins located in the leg are best treated using a treatment called micro-sclerotherapy. 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 downtime.” – Mark

Replace refined sugar with vegetables and fruit where possible, get moving as much as possible, and elevate your legs regularly.

They Might Reduce In Size Without Treatment

“It’s quite rare for broken veins to go away on their own. However, they may very well reduce in size depending on the severity. Often though, once these veins have developed it’s rare for them to disappear completely. It’s also worth noting that even with treatment, they may reappear some time after. This is because they will usually have a higher-pressure feeder vessel that causes the tiny vessels to reopen over time. The key is to treat them as soon as they appear with the treatment options mentioned.” – David

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. Take up walking as a gentle exercise and use compression tights if you stand or sit for long periods of time.” – Lesley

“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, get moving as much as possible, and elevate your legs regularly. 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.” – Mark

“Lifestyle habits aside, you must also wear regular UV protection to prevent further veins forming. Likewise, try to limit alcohol and smoking – both of which can exacerbate broken veins.” – David

Remember To Keep An Eye Out For Any Changes

“Usually, spider veins aren’t a sign of anything dangerous. 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.” – Lesley

“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.” – Mark
 

Here Are Five Locations To Try For Spider Vein Treatment...

Harley Street Clinic, Central London 
Medicetics, London & Cirencester
L'Atelier Aesthetics, Harley Street
Dr David Jack Clinic, Harley Street
Pulse Light Clinic, London

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