Thread veins, also known as spider veins, are thin thread-like veins that lie close to the skin’s surface and are bright red to blue in colour. Thread veins are caused by abnormal venous blood flow resulting in an increased pressure in these smaller blood vessels, causing them to stretch and become prominent. They are extremely common in both men and women and are often found on the face, body and legs. Thread veins are entirely asymptomatic and only of cosmetic concern.
Factors increasing the risk for thread veins are:
- Aging – As you age, the valves in your veins may weaken and not work as well. Also the skin will become thinner which makes the stretched veins more obvious
- Heredity – Being born with weak vein valves increases your risk, as will having family members with vein problems. However hereditary tendency is not always expressed in every individual in the family. It may sometimes skip a generation, or fathers may transmit the tendency to a daughter.
- Hormonal changes – These commonly affect women and occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Birth control pills and other medicines containing hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) may cause poor blood circulation and contribute to the forming of thread veins.
- Pregnancy – Pregnancy causes spider veins to develop in two ways: by increasing the volume of blood in your body, and also by increasing your weight, thus resulting in a huge increase in the amount of blood in the body. This can cause veins to enlarge, as the veins have to work twice as hard to carry the increased weight and to circulate more blood.
- Obesity – Being overweight increases the blood pressure and adds more stress on the veins. Obesity is often also complicated by high cholesterol and high sugar levels in the blood. This thickens the blood and makes it difficult for the veins to push the thickened blood back up to the heart. Thickened blood also has an increased tendency to pool or develop clots, thereby increasing the risk of swelling in the veins.
- Occupation – Some occupations require you to sit or stand for a long time, and this may force your veins to work harder in pumping blood to your heart. This is a common cause of thread veins in the legs.
- Drinking alcohol – Alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate and, over time, excessive drinking of alcohol may cause your veins to dilate permanently, leading to spider veins.
- Sun exposure – This can cause spider veins mainly on the cheeks or nose of a fair-skinned person.
- Tight clothing – Wearing tight clothes and undergarments can restrict blood flow and cause pressure to increase and the veins to dilate.
- Trauma to the skin – Trauma or injury to the skin can weaken vein walls, which can cause veins to dilate even under normal venous pressure.
Some of the causes of thread veins can be prevented, but some, such as heredity causes, cannot. Being aware of the causes and conditions that can increase your susceptibility to developing thread veins is important. Your awareness can help you limit your participation in many of the causes of thread veins.
Treatment options for Thread Vein Removal
Thread vein removal is a highly individualized procedure and you should do it in order to help yourself, and not to fulfil someone else’s desires or to try to fit any sort of ideal image. This procedure can be performed on people of any age and is a good option for you if:
- You are bothered by thread veins anywhere on your body
- You have a positive outlook and realistic goals for your thread vein treatment
- You are committed to following your practitioner’s prescribed course of treatment
Thread vein removal involves the destruction of thread veins either by means of chemical destruction (Sclerotherapy) or heat energy (Laser therapy). The type of treatment is dependent on the area being treated. Sclerotherapy is used to treat thread veins on body and legs whereas Laser is more effective on the face and small thread veins on the body. Laser vein removal may be combined with Sclerotherapy to treat the larger veins. It is important to know these procedures treat only those veins that are currently visible. They cannot prevent new veins from surfacing in the future. As time passes, you may find that you need further treatments to take care of any new veins that may emerge.
Sclerotherapy is a relatively simple non-surgical treatment which involves a special solution being injected directly into the vein using a very fine needle. The solution will then chemically damage or “sclerose” the veins causing them to perish and disappear. There is a maximum safe dose for each sclerotherpy solution that can be safely used in a single session, thus limiting the number of veins that can be treated in a single session. Hence there is a need for multiple treatment sessions.
Although individual outcomes vary, as a rough guide, most patients would require 2-4 treatment sessions of the same areas but some patients will need up to ten treatments to achieve a good result, with each treatment session resulting in at least 50-60% improvement compared to before. At the end of the process most patients can expect about 80-90% clearance, the remaining veins often being hardly visible except at close range.
The treated areas can look worse before they improve due to bruising following injections, and it is necessary to be very patient in order to obtain a good result. Bruising can last anything from a few weeks to a few months depending upon the size of the blood vessels being treated. High compression stockings are worn for up to three days to help reduce the amount of bruising.
After about a month of healing, you may be ready for a second vein treatment. With each treatment, you will notice further improvement in your skin’s appearance.
Laser vein removal is an easy, fast, and effective way to treat superficial veins. During the treatment, protective eyewear is worn to guard the eyes from the laser light. Your practitioner will apply very cold air to the treatment area to numb it. Light energy is delivered through a small laser hand piece to a targeted vein. The light energy is absorbed by the lining of the blood vessels and the blood within the blood vessels. The heat generated causes a coagulation (clotting) of the blood, which is subsequently absorbed by the body within a few weeks following the treatment. These advanced laser treatments allow the delivery of a precise dosage of energy required to abolish each blood vessel whilst sparing the adjacent healthy tissue.
After the treatment you may experience a sunburn-like feeling that may last for several hours. No restriction in daily routine is required, with the exception that you should restrain from strenuous exercises. Normal activities are encouraged. You may be required to wear compression stockings.
As with Sclerotherapy, a course of treatment is also necessary with laser vein removal so as to obtain optimal results. It is important to realize that there is no treatment for veins which can guarantee a “permanent vein removal”. The most realistic description of the results after laser treatment is “long term vein reduction”. This means that after several treatments the total number of unsightly veins is greatly reduced — generally by 70% to 90%. Most patients are very pleased with this degree of improvement, so long as they know that this is what to expect before they undergo treatment.
Regardless of which treatment you have, to maintain optimal results, most patients need to have periodic follow up thread vein treatment sessions. The frequency varies from one year to several years.
Risks & Complications of Thread Vein Removal
Although thread vein removal is incredibly safe, there are some potential side effects and risks which are temporary. Understanding the possible side effects of this treatment can help you make an informed decision. When thread vein removal is performed by a qualified and experienced practitioner, the risks and complications are minimal. However, because individuals vary greatly in their anatomy, their physical reactions and their healing abilities, the outcome is never completely predictable.
Risks associated with Sclerotherapy include:
- Stinging, red and raised patches of skin, or bruises on the site of injection. These usually subside shortly after treatment.
- Spots, brown lines, or groups of fine red blood vessels around the treated vein. These also usually subside shortly after treatment.
- Some bruising and retained dark blood clots in the treated veins (some bruising almost always occurs, but gradually fades over a few weeks in most cases).
- Skin injury that could leave a small but permanent scar.
- Skin ulceration (should be a rare side effect in experienced hands and is minimized by a meticulous technique and use of the mildest solution that can achieve the desired result).
- Allergic reactions to the commonly used sclerotherapy solutions (tends to be very rare).
Risks associated with Laser vein removal include:
- Redness or swelling of the skin immediately following the treatment that subside within a few days.
- Discolouration of the skin happens when the tiny thin-walled veins burst from the treatment and blood leaks into the tissues causing a sizeable bruise. As the body absorbs the bruise, the iron particles in the haemoglobin molecules linger in the tissues for months causing a brown stain. This gradually fades within a few weeks to a few months.
- Blister or burn (very rare or non-existent with the Nd:Yag laser we use).