Don't let Spider Veins cramp your style. Find out what treats them

Dr Zara Kassam PhD

Are thread or spider veins cramping your lifestyle? Dr Zara Kassam PhD explores the options to get your face and legs looking their best.

According to the UK statistics almost 50% of all women will develop spider veins in their lifetime. Sometime they appear of the face but they can also  occur on the legs.

They can make people feel self conscious, but never fear, there are a number of options available to help get rid of them.

So what causes spider veins?

Spider veins or telangiectasias (small linear blood vessels) emerge when small clusters of blood vessels form near the skin surface.

These vessels commonly look like a spider’s web and are typically red or purple in colour. They can be broadly divided into two classifications: inherited or acquired.

However, there are also other factors that can contribute to us developing spider; “Smoking, obesity, and hormones including ‘the pill’ can all contribute to the formation of spider veins, smoking and obesity can restrict circulation, which in turn causes vessels to swell,” says Elizabeth Rimmer, dermatology nurse and Clinical Director at London Professional Aesthetics.

She explains: “Smoking and obesity can restrict circulation, which in turn causes vessels to swell, which causes spider veins.  Whereas being obese puts a lot of stress on the body, which can be damaging to our circulatory system”.

The contraception pill can be another contributing factor. It can affect our hormones, weakening the vein walls and speeding up the formation of spider veins and varicose veins.

And then there’s genetics. If your mother has them, there is a good chance that you will too.

Although thread or spider veins are usually just a cosmetic problem they can occasionally cause symptoms such as burning pain and itching.


What can help? 

The most effective treatment for treating spider veins on the legs is Microsclerotherapy or Sclerotherapy – although this treatment is usually done on varicose veins. This involves injections of a specific solution with a tiny needle and Elizabeth says it “is the is the gold standard treatment”.

The solution injected is called a ‘sclerosant’ which consists of:

  • Salt
  • Fatty acids
  • Glycerin

It is injected into the vein and causing the vein walls to ‘stick together’ which stops the flow of blood.

Elizabeth says that “Over the following weeks this treatment results in the destruction or reduction of these unsightly veins”

The procedure is as simple as a vaccination and only requires a few minutes, with no downtime, however some patients may experience bruising, nevertheless these should clear up in 1-2 weeks.

She adds that this treatment is not suitable for those with varicose veins and that those who do suffer with painful varicose veins should ideally be treated by a vascular surgeon before being treated for the spider veins.

To achieve the best results Elizabeth adds that compression hosiery should be worn for 3-5 days after the treatment – day and night, and then for 2 weeks after the treatment, throughout the day.

After the procedure you may experience burning or itching at the injection site for a few nights.

“This is due to the swelling of the walls of the veins leaving the injection site to look like a tiny insect bite, however on the bright side the complications to this procedure are very rare”, Elizabeth says.


How many treatments will I need and what result can I expect?

There is no set number of treatments- it depends on each individuals needs.

“Most people will require more than one treatment the average course being around 3-6”, Elizabeth says.

Results can be significant however Elizabeth says that 100% fading is very rare, and most patients will see an improvement of around 65-75%.


What about the face?

There are two commonly used treatments: Intense Pulse Light Therapy (IPL) or laser.

Elizabeth says “Techniques such as laser, IPL do not work well on thread veins of the legs although are effective in managing thread veins on the face”.

Both are considered a non-invasive treatments and Elizabeth explains that the laser, which is fundamentally a focussed beam of light that helps reverses the growth of the spider like vessels has a high risk profile.

Skin can become red and swollen, and blistering can occur following the treatment and there is a risk of permanently discoloured skin.

There are strict post treatment rules too. Sunlight must be avoided for up to 8 weeks to get the best results. Only then can further assessment be carried out to see if additional treatments are required.

IPL uses a multitude of different wavelengths applied in small bursts.

“The benefit of using this is that the skin is exposed to short pulses of light, and therefore reducing the discomfort and redness following a session”, Elizabeth says.

“Bearing these points in mind I have found that this form of light therapy is not as effective as laser due to its lack of specificity,” Elizabeth says.

It also has its own set of risks attached which include  problems with pigmentation (hypo or hyperpigmentation), redness “As with all treatments there are potential side effects, including hypopigmentation, hyperpigmentation, purpura (burst blood vessels) and erythema (redness). Generally, it’s better suited to fair skinned people.

The treatment itself can be uncomfortable for some people and may even blister.

A new treatment in the cosmeceutical industry used to treat spider veins is known as Veinwave, Elizabeth tells Harley Street Emporium.

This treatment relies on ‘thermo-coagulation’ – heating up capillaries and veins responsible for the formation of thread veins, causing them to close and become re-absorbed by the body, as a result destroying the spider like veins.

It uses microwaves and an extremely fine needle, which means it can be targeted accurately, reducing the risk of damaging surrounding tissue.

It does not affect the top payers of the skin removing the risk of blistering or pigment issues. It can be used on any part of the body.

The treatment is quick (10 or 15 minutes) and delivers instantaneous results.


Prevention tips

Like most things in life prevention is better than cure. Here are some of Harley Street Emporium’s top tips:

  1. Sunscreen– Using sunscreen is essential to our daily routine not only will it prevent cancer but also prevent spider veins (especially on the face) and it helps reduce vasodilation.

We recommend using:

  1. Keep moving – Try not to sit for more than 30 minutes without getting up or going for a walk. Moving and keeping active promotes blood flow and reduces your risk of spider or varicose veins.
  2. Raise them – When you are resting elevate your feet to help take the pressure off your legs, this will decrease the pressure on the veins.
  3. The perfect shoe – High-heels should be for special occasions only. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes that do not squeeze and restrict blood flow. Compression socks can also help blood get back to your heart and keep your veins from enlarging.

Oakley, A. What is telangiectasia? (DermnetNZ, 2014) <>

Uddhav P & Lakshyajit D, ‘Overview of Lasers’ (Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, 2008) S101–S113.


Lapidoth M, Shafirstein G, et al., ‘Reticulate erythema following diode laser-assisted hair removal: a new side effect of a common procedure.’ (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2004) 51(5):774-7.


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