What to Do About Itchy Spider Veins

Q. The spider veins on my legs sometimes get itchy. Should I be concerned?

A. Although spider veins are rarely serious, they can cause an unpleasant itching or burning sensation. Spider veins, or telangiectasias, are tiny blood vessels just under the skin’s surface.

Usually caused by hormonal changes, sun exposure, obesity, inactivity or prolonged standing, pregnancy, or leg injury, they become more common as you age and are often hereditary.

Occasionally, spider veins may signal a backup of blood from the legs to the heart, and you may experience swelling, achiness, heaviness, or throbbing in your leg. If this is the case, see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical condition.

Itching and burning are common symptoms but typically harmless. Try not to scratch your spider veins; it’s easy to damage the thin skin over them, and you could end up with an infection.

Weight loss, if needed, and regular walking can help prevent additional spider veins from forming.

If your spider veins are causing discomfort, or if their appearance bothers you, they can be dissolved or lightened. A noninvasive outpatient procedure called sclerotherapy involves having a solution injected into your veins that causes them to collapse and eventually fade.

Laser treatment also causes the veins to collapse and fade. Both procedures are generally considered cosmetic when used for spider veins, so Medicare or insurance usually doesn’t cover them.

Patients with diabetes or peripheral artery disease should avoid both treatments because of an increased risk of developing nonhealing wounds.

Learn more about varicose veins, which can be painful and affect your quality of life.

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HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into Healthcentral.com in 2018.