Treating and Preventing Ugly Leg Veins

July 22, 2009 What are Spider and Varicose Veins

Spider Veins

  • Spider veins are formed by the dilation of a small group of blood vessels located close to the surface of the skin.
  • Although they can appear anywhere on the body, spider veins are most commonly found on the face and legs.
  • They usually pose no health hazard, but may produce a dull aching in the legs after prolonged standing and indicate more severe venous disease.

Varicose Veins

  • Varicose veins are abnormally swollen or enlarged blood vessels caused by a weakening in the vein's wall.
  • They can be harmful to a patient's health because they may be associated with the development of one or more of the following conditions: phlebitis or inflamed, tender vein; thrombosis or a clot in the vein; and venous stasis ulcers or open sores from inadequate tissue oxygen and fluid retention.

Who Develops Spider/Varicose Veins and What are the Risk Factors

  • The exact cause of spider and varicose veins is unknown, although heredity, pregnancy and hormonal influences are believed to be primary factors contributing to both conditions.
  • Other risk factors include high heeled shoes, age, occupation, heat and obesity. More than 40 percent of women have some form of varicose conditions, with an increasing incidence of venous disease as one gets older, so that up to 80 percent of women have some form of venous disease by age 80.

Tips for Diminishing the Appearance of Spider and Varicose Veins


  • Do listen to your body: While spider veins tend to be a cosmetic concern, together with varicose veins they can also lead to serious health complications such as: fatigue, night cramps, leg swelling, itching or skin breakdown and ulceration around certain veins.
  • Do keep active: Keep those legs moving…walking, cycling and swimming all help to keep up blood circulation in legs and will reduce pressure and blood pooling.
  • Do maintain a healthy weight: Reducing body weight may help to prevent varicose and spider veins. Sustaining a healthy weight will eliminate excess pressure on your legs that cause veins to surface.
  • Do wear compression stockings to elevate pressure to the veins: While support hose ensure that pressure is evenly distributed on legs, it's important to watch out for pressure from restrictive clothing that might actually trap blood, causing clots. Clothing around specific body parts including waist, legs and the groin area can restrict circulation and lead to spider and varicose veins.


  • Don't sit or stand for long periods of time: Being in one position for an extended period of time can place pressure on veins, so it's important to keep your legs moving. Changing positions every 30 minutes will help blood flow and keep veins healthy. Flexing calves muscles frequently is also a good exercise to do at your desk, on long car trips or on a plane to keep up circulation.
  • Don't assume all treatments will work for you: Speak to a dermatologic surgeon about a variety of treatment options available, such as lasers or injections. Depending on the severity of vein damage experts can determine the best treatment option for you.
  • Don't subject legs to excessive heat: Everyone enjoys a hot bath or relaxing in a hot tub on occasion but it's important to keep it to a minimum. The heat associated with baths and hot tubs will actually increase vein swelling and lead to blood pooling.
  • Don't fall for bogus advertisements: When seeking options for vein treatment be cautious! Advertisements that claim to be "unique," "permanent" or "painless" could be tempting, but may not be legitimate. Be sure to see a dermatologic surgeon who can perform a variety of procedures.

Treatment Options

  • Sclerotherapy: Sclerotherapy is considered the gold standard treatment for removing spider and some varicose leg veins.
  • Endo Venous Laser Treatment: Laser therapy may be effective for certain leg veins to help selectively destroy the abnormal veins.
  • Ambulatory Phlebectomy: Procedure that removes superficial veins through small, slit-like incisions in the skin.

Importance of Patient Safety

Keep the following tips in mind when considering any cosmetic procedure:

  • If it's too good to be true, then it is: If a procedure costs significantly less than usual, it's safe to assume it's not the best treatment.
  • Make sure a doctor is on site: Cosmetic procedures should be performed by a board certified dermatologic surgeon. If a procedure is not performed by a dermatologic surgeon, make sure the supervising physician is on-site and available to respond to any questions or problems that may occur.
  • Check credentials: Just because there are diplomas on the wall, does not mean they are legitimate. Check the ASDS Web site for a list of certified dermatologic surgeons,

For more information, contact Dr. Carolyn Jacob at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, 20 W. Kinzie, Suite 1130, Chicago 60654; 312.245.9965; or visit her website .

About Dr. Carolyn Jacob

Dr. Carolyn Jacob is fellowship trained in Cosmetic and Laser Surgery from Harvard Medical School. Dr. Jacob has authored several book chapters and journal articles in the field of cosmetic and Laser Surgery.

She is Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is an Associate Clinical Instructor at Northwestern Medical School. She is an active member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, and the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery.

She frequently lectures in the Chicagoland area, as well as national conferences.

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