Spider veins, aka telangiectasia, are enlarged veins near the skin’s surface that appear purple, red, or blue. Most men think of them as an inconvenience and a cosmetic problem, if they think of their own spider veins at all. While spider veins do make wearing shorts less appealing, they usually do not cause pain. Spider veins may, however, be a symptom of an actual health issue that does not get better over time, but can be corrected with minimally invasive procedures.

What are Spider Veins?

Oftentimes spider veins in men are the result of “blow-outs” from nearby veins with failures in the delicate one-way valves that are supposed to keep blood from flowing backward. When the blood is on its way back to the heart and lungs to be re-oxygenated, it flows backward instead, pressure builds in the veins, causing neighboring, smaller veins to stretch and enlarge. Men’s spider veins are usually darker and larger in diameter than those found in women.

Spider vein matts, which resemble bruises but do not fade, are often caused by the healing process of injuries and bruises. A soccer ball to the leg, or a whack on a coffee table, may cause damage to the delicate one-way valves resulting in permanent spider veins.

What is Venous Insufficiency?

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a form of poor circulation where venous blood is not efficiently returned to the heart and lungs for re- oxygenation, is often the root cause of spider veins as well as “ankle flares” or clusters of spider veins found on the inside of ankles. If affected by venous insufficiency, the delicate, one-way valves in your legs don’t close all the way and the blood refluxes, or flows backward, where it pools, creating heaviness, pressure, and oftentimes, varicose and spider veins.

Most spider veins don’t hurt or come with any other symptoms besides looking unsightly. That’s why they are usually only considered as a cosmetic problem. In rare cases, spider veins that develop from deeper “reticular” or feeder veins may come with a burning sensation, itching, or dull throbbing pain.

Treatment Options

At VeinInnovations we recommend that spider vein treatment be part of an overall treatment plan, beginning with a diagnostic ultrasound study of the legs. It is important to know whether or not the spider veins are caused by venous reflux or not. If reflux is the root cause of spider veins, these veins are likely to re-occur if treatment of the larger veins, which is usually covered by insurance, is not done first.

If reflux is indicated, minimally invasive treatment options for the larger veins will be recommended, followed by sclerotherapy or laser treatment for spider veins. Insurance may cover the cost of one or two sclerotherapy sessions following treatment for reflux, but will not cover sclerotherapy on its own.

Two minimally invasive treatment options are recommended for spider veins. Sclerotherapy is performed by a nurse or physician who uses a needle to inject an irritating chemical into the veins. This irritant collapses the veins, which are absorbed by the body, causing the lines to fade over time.

Laser treatments rely on the laser’s heat to be absorbed by blood cells inside the spider veins. Clotting of the cells causes the veins to collapse or close. Just as in sclerotherapy, the body absorbs the veins, diminishing their appearance.

Although spider veins are not necessarily dangerous to health or circulation, they can be a sign of a problem with circulation, and may cause embarrassment. Either way, it is a good idea to find out the root cause of the spider veins, and, if present, to treat venous insufficiency. Treating venous insufficiency is the best way to decrease the likelihood of spider vein reoccurrence.