Spider Veins

Patient Expert

I've noticed that I'm getting more spider veins on the backs of my knees. Is there anything I can do to get rid of them? Will creams for varicose veins work?

Unfortunately for anyone who spends a lot of time on his or her feet, spider veins develop with age. It's a common concern for at least half the population and the condition tends to be worse for women than for men.

To start, spider veins (medically known as telangiectasias) are not interchangeable with varicose veins. Spider veins are usually smaller and closer to the surface of the skin while varicose veins are often deeper and more prominent. Varicose veins result from weakening in the vein walls and can cause severe pain and further health concerns if the condition worsens into deep vein thrombosis.

Spider veins are caused by dilated and broken capillaries just beneath the surface of the skin. They result from a variety of factors, some of which include heredity, pregnancy, and level of activity. Some people may also see spider veins develop around the eyes and nose. While the condition is not life-threatening, it's a troublesome cosmetic concern for many. In addition, they may create slight swelling in the legs and occasional aches and pains.

There's some debate regarding whether or not topically-applied vitamin K products will help fade spider veins and dark circles. Vitamin K is produced naturally by your liver in order to help your blood clot. The idea behind these creams is that improved coagulation will reduce the chances of burst capillaries by preventing the seepage of blood. When used topically, however, the efficacy of vitamin K has not been scientifically proven. Many of the cosmetics that contain vitamin K are often expensive but do not carry vitamin K in high concentrations, rendering the products minimally effective at best.

Instead of doling out big money for small results, stick with the treatments that have been shown to improve the appearance of spider veins. A popular option is sclerotherapy, a procedure in which a doctor injects a solution into the veins to cause them to collapse and fade as scar tissue. The sessions are typically quick and you may feel a slight burning sensation in the treated areas. Laser therapy is another option, but both types of treatment are costly. They run about $300 per session and are not covered by insurance. Keep in mind that one session will not complete the job and you may need several treatments to banish spider veins.

Regardless of whether or not you undergo spider vein treatments, take preventative measures to stop new spider veins from forming. For example, if your lifestyle is fairly sedentary or if you stand for long periods of time, make sure you aid your circulation by flexing your ankles and calves every ten minutes. If you take long plane trips, consider wearing support hose for the duration of the flight. While it's not a glamorous option, it will reduce pressure on your veins. Exercising and elevating your legs whenever possible will also help prevent spider veins.

If you're pregnant or still breastfeeding, chances are that your spider veins will fade on their own gradually. The added weight of pregnancy and the changes in your hormones are common causes of vein pressure and the condition often reverses itself a few months post-delivery.