What are Spider Veins and How do I Fix Broken Capillaries?
Spider veins, which commonly appear on the face and legs, are purple or red veins shaped like spider webs or tree branches that are close to the surface of the skin. Meanwhile, these are the smaller versions of varicose veins which often look like twisted, bulging cords often found on the back of the calves, thighs, or inside of the legs.
This condition is primarily caused by damaged or weak valves in the veins. As the veins carry blood back to the heart in order to distribute oxygen and nutrients, they have to fight the pull of gravity to prevent the blood from leaking back into the vessels; however, the problem happens when they become weak.
If the valves of the veins become weak or damaged, the blood will leak back and then collect to certain areas of the body. They usually appear as red or purple thin lines or spider veins until more trapped blood makes them bigger, turning them into varicose veins.
Aside from weak or damaged valves, spider veins can also be caused by too much sun exposure, hormonal changes, and injuries. These broken capillaries may cover small or large areas of the body.
Sclerotherapy Treatment for Spider Veins
Spider veins are generally easy to treat than varicose veins and they hardly ever cause serious health problems, although in rare occasions they can lead to slight discomfort in the legs, itching, or burning. On the other hand, severe varicose veins may lead to sores or skin ulcers, deep vein thrombosis (blood clot often associated with swelling and pain), and bleeding.
It is important to note that spider veins are almost never treated with surgery such as surgical ligation and stripping, which are only reserved for large varicose veins that will not respond to less invasive treatments.
Nowadays, sclerotherapy is the most common treatment for spider veins in which a doctor injects the veins with chemicals through a small needle. The injection causes the walls of the veins to swell and stick together in order to seal them shut and turn them into scar tissues, thus stopping the flow of blood.
After several weeks, the spider veins and broken capillaries will fade, although some people will need multiple treatments usually performed four to six weeks apart to achieve the best result. Meanwhile, wearing compression stockings right after each session can minimize swelling and encourage faster recovery.
What are the Safety Precautions Taken With Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a relatively safe and effective procedure if done by a licensed medical professional; in fact, the treatment does not involve the use of anesthesia and most patients can return to normal activities right after each session.
Meanwhile, there is a new type of sclerotherapy in which an ultrasound machine is used to guide doctors while inserting the needle. With this procedure, the damaged veins can be treated even if they are not seen on the skin’s surface.
Compared with the traditional technique, the ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy involves more risks including skin sores and deep vein thrombosis. And because some arteries may be injected with chemical by mistake, the procedure should only be performed by a licensed medical professional.
After the treatment, most patients will develop raised patches of skin or bruises which are associated with redness and stinging; however, these symptoms will usually go away shortly after a treatment. Other common but temporary side effects include brown lines, spots, and visible red blood vessels around the treated area.
For some patients, they may experience lumps of blood trapped in the treated veins which can cause inflammation. In general, this is a harmless condition and can be easily treated by taking aspirin and applying heat compress; but for some, they may need a simple procedure in which their doctor will drain the trapped blood using a small pinprick.
Surface Laser and Intense Pulse Light Therapy
Surface Laser Treatment
This procedure, which is ideal for treating spider veins and smaller varicose veins, uses strong bursts of light in order to penetrate the veins under the skin, making them disappear. To achieve the best result, most patients will need two to five treatments especially if the damaged veins are in the legs. While no needles are used, the heat during the laser treatment may cause pain and discomfort. In order to minimize these symptoms, a cooling gel or device is applied on the skin during the procedure which often lasts 15 to 20 minutes.
Despite the effectiveness of laser treatments, these are not ideal for dark skin and varicose veins that are larger than 3mm. The procedure’s most common side effects include temporary swelling and redness on the treated area which will resolve within several days; burns and scars (very rare if the treatments is performed by a professional); and skin discoloration that usually disappears within a month or two. To achieve the best possible result, a patient should avoid sun exposure, alcohol, smoking, and aspirin for at least a week before their laser treatment.
Intense Pulse Light Therapy
This is a non-invasive treatment for spider veins and broken capillaries in which a concentrated pulse of light is used to damage the vessel walls. As a result, the veins shrink and disappear over time, although most patients will need at least two to six treatments which are performed four to six weeks apart.
The treatment, which often takes 15 to 45 minutes, is ideal for light-skinned patients. On the other hand, individuals who tan easily experience more unexpected outcomes while those with dark complexion are generally not considered as a good candidate for IPL treatment.
Success Rate of Spider Vein Treatments
Modern treatments for spider veins and broken capillaries have a very high success rate, although there is always the chance that the damaged or weakened veins reappear after several years. For this reason, some patients will need to undergo a periodic ultrasound test to determine the condition of valves, while people suffering from venous insufficiency will require ongoing treatments to keep the problem under control.
In order to prolong the effects of spider vein treatments, many doctors recommend the use of gradient compression stockings (which provide support on areas where it is needed the most unlike ordinary pantyhose) as much as possible during the day.
Preventing New Spider Veins
While new spider veins cannot be prevented, there are many ways to reduce the chance of getting broken capillaries after a treatment. These are some of the most common examples:
- Exercising regularly can strengthen the veins in the legs and improve blood circulation, particularly those that focuses on legs such as running, walking, and jogging.
- Maintain a normal weight so the legs will not have to carry unnecessary weight.
- Wear sunscreen with high SPF to protect the skin on the face. (Too much sun exposure is the primary cause of spider veins on the face.)
- Elevating the legs can minimize the pressure experienced by veins while fighting the pull of gravity as they pump blood toward the heart.
- Avoid sitting or standing for a long period of time because it may inhibit normal blood flow. If a person needs to stand for a long period, she should shift her weight from one leg to the other for every few minutes; and if she is required to sit for long hours, it is ideal to stand up or take a short walk every half an hour.
- Avoid crossing the legs for a long period of time when sitting as this may cause minor injury which may increase the risk of spider veins and varicose veins.
- As much as possible, wear elastic stockings or support garments that can provide pressure on the legs; however, clothing that squeezes a limited area on the legs, groin, and waist should be avoided.
- Minimizing salt consumption can reduce swelling associated with varicose veins.
- Avoid wearing shoes with high heels for a long period of time. As much as possible, use lower-heeled shoes which are not just comfortable but also helpful in toning the calf muscles, allowing the blood to easily flow through the veins.