As we get older, our veins often become more visible, especially in our legs and hands. Are we seeing varicose veins, or spider veins? What’s the difference? Or is there a difference? We’re often asked these questions at Rocky Mountain Laser Aesthetics, so let’s see if we can clear things up.
In a nutshell: although there are some similarities, in most ways varicose veins and spider veins are very different.
What are Varicose Veins?
Veins are the blood vessels that return blood to the heart, so they have to pump upward from the feet. Over time, the valves that keep blood moving upward can weaken or become diseased, so blood tends to flow backward instead. This process is called “reflux.” The result is overfilled, bulging veins we call varicose veins. If you have varicose veins, you may feel numbness, aching, pain, cramping, itching and/or fatigue in your legs. The situation will continue to worsen unless treated, and can even lead to skin ulcers.
Somewhere between a third and half of adults suffer from chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), the condition that usually causes varicose veins. Other contributing factors can include heredity, age, obesity, hormonal issues such as pregnancy, or spending too much time on your feet. Interestingly, about 80% of those with varicose veins are women.
Today, there are several procedures cosmetic and plastic surgeons can use to remove varicose veins, depending on each patient’s specific condition. None of these surgical procedures involve the old practice of “vein stripping.”
What are Spider Veins?
Although also the result of “failed” blood vessels, spider veins are much smaller than varicose veins. They get their name from their web-like, reddened appearance. They occur near the skin’s surface, whereas varicose veins occur in deeper skin layers. And while varicose veins usually affect the legs and feet, spider veins can appear on the legs, hands, face, neck, chest, or back.
Unlike varicose veins, spider veins don’t hurt, although they can be cosmetically unappealing.
Laser Therapy for Removal of Spider Veins
The Diolite laser is our go-to tool for removing unsightly spider veins on the face. The procedure is very short – it can take as little as 5 or 10 minutes, depending on the area(s) being treated, and there is no downtime. We also use the DIolite laser to correct other common skin problems, such as dark spots or age spots, cherry angiomas, and small moles. Some patients see great results after a single treatment, though we have found that a series of 2 to 5 treatments may be needed, depending on the specific skin issue being treated.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Spider Veins
Spider veins may seem like “no big deal” – strictly a cosmetic issue. And for most people, that’s all they are. But sometimes spider veins, like varicose veins, indicate more serious venous problems -- or even disease such as diabetes. That’s why it is so important to schedule a personal consultation. Dr. Raval can examine your situation and recommend whether Diolite laser therapy is the right solution for you.