what causes spider veins

If you have spider veins, you’re not alone. Most adults will develop spider veins at some point in their lives — usually on their legs or face. Spider veins may be unsightly, but for most people they are harmless.

Here’s a look at what causes spider veins, and how to deal with them.

What Are Spider Veins?

Spider veins (medical name: telangiectasias) are clusters of damaged blood vessels near the surface of the skin. They’re typically smaller than varicose veins, which are blood vessels that protrude from the skin.

Spider veins are thin purple, red, or blue lines that fan out like tree branches or a spiderweb. Unlike varicose veins, they don’t bulge out from the skin.

“Spider veins typically occur on the legs but can show up on the face or other parts of the body,” said Emelia Bittenbinder, MD, UPMC Vein Center in Central Pa., “Both men and women can get spider veins, but they’re more common in women.” They usually begin to appear when you’re between 30 and 50 years of age.

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What Causes Spider Veins?

Doctors aren’t always sure what causes spider veins. They may occur when damaged blood vessels allow blood to pool in veins.

Hormonal changes and injuries can also trigger the appearance of spider veins. Clothing that’s too tight around the waist, legs, and groin can restrict circulation and lead to spider veins.

Other risk factors for spider veins include:

  • Family history of spider veins or varicose veins.
  • Smoking.
  • Obesity.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Sun exposure.
  • Being older.

Are Spider Veins Serious?

In a word, no. Spider veins are almost always a purely cosmetic problem.

That’s not to say they’re welcome. Having spider veins can lower your self-esteem and make you feel self-conscious.

In rare cases, you may have other symptoms with spider veins. You should see a doctor if you have the following along with spider veins:

  • Burning.
  • Itching.
  • Nighttime leg cramps.
  • Leg swelling.

Do Spider Veins Go Away on Their Own?

Unfortunately, spider veins don’t go away on their own. And while you can prevent new spider veins, it can’t get rid of existing ones.

Some people tout herbal products, essential oils, and other home remedies as solutions for how to treat spider veins naturally. While these treatments may make your skin feel good, they don’t affect the spider veins you have.

If spider veins bother you, there are several cosmetic treatments available. You should see a dermatologist who specializes in these procedures.

Treatment for Spider Veins

Cosmetic treatments can reduce the appearance of spider veins. These procedures take place in a doctor’s office. You go home the same day.


Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment for spider veins. The doctor injects a chemical solution into the vein. This causes the vein walls to stick together and seal shut.

The blood then stops flowing through the vein, which turns to scar tissue. Spider veins usually disappear within three to six weeks of treatment. If they don’t, you may need two or three sclerotherapy treatments to get rid of your spider veins.

Side effects of sclerotherapy may include tenderness and bruising. If you received treatment for spider veins on your legs, doctor may suggest wearing compression stockings while you heal.

Simple laser treatments

The doctor directs a laser light at the vein. The light destroys the vein without damaging your skin.

You may notice that small spider veins disappear right after laser treatment. Bigger spider veins may get dark and remain visible for a month or two before they begin to fade. You may need multiple treatments to have complete clearing.

You can return to work and normal activities the next day. You may need to wear compression stockings while you heal. You should also stay out of direct sunlight for a few weeks, as your skin will be extra sensitive to UV rays.

Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) and Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

These treatments work inside the vein to destroy it. You will receive local anesthesia to numb the area. The doctor makes a small incision and inserts a laser fiber or catheter.

The laser or catheter heats up the vein, making it collapse and seal shut. The heat only works on the vein and doesn’t hurt surrounding tissue.

You’ll go home the same day and wear compression stockings for a week or two while you heal. You can return to work and most activities the next day.

How to Prevent Spider Veins

While you can’t make spider veins disappear without treatment, you can lessen the risk of getting new spider veins. You should:

  • Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight makes it harder for the blood to circulate all the way from your legs to your heart. Reducing your overall body weight will take pressure off your legs.
  • Exercise regularly. Keeping the muscles in your legs active by walking, swimming, or biking will boost your circulation. That makes it less likely for blood to pool in your veins and cause problems.
  • Try not to sit or stand in the same position for long periods of time. Doing so puts too much pressure on your veins. You should change your position every 30 minutes or so, or at least rotate and flex your feet when you can’t get up.
  • Avoid sitting in hot baths or hot tubs for extended periods of time. The heat can lead to swollen veins and blood pooling.
  • Use sunscreen. Too much sun exposure, especially on fair skin, can lead to spider veins. Consistent use of sunscreen can also help protect you from the risk of skin cancer.
  • Wear compression stockings. These apply pressure and help the blood circulate in your legs. A dermatologist can recommend the correct size and type of compression stocking for you.

American Academy of Dermatology Association, Leg Veins: Why They Appear and how Dermatologists Treat Them, Link

American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Spider Veins, Link

National Library of Medicine, Spider Veins, Link

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women's Health, Varicose veins and spider veins, Link

National Library of Medicine, Varicose Veins, Link

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