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Are Spider Veins Considered Dangerous to My Health?

Feb 14, 2024
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Spider veins affect millions of Americans, and there’s no doubt they can make you embarrassed or self-conscious about your skin. But do they pose a threat to your health? Keep reading to find out.

If you have spider veins, you’re not alone. Up to 60% of American adults develop these unsightly veins at some point. While there’s no doubt spider veins can make you self-conscious, many of our patients ask us if these veins are dangerous to their health. 

At Aesthetic Surgery and Dermatology of Cherry Creek in Denver, Colorado, board-certified dermatologist Adrienne Stewart, MD, and our care team understand. We assess your health and talk to you about your aesthetic concerns before recommending a personalized course of treatment. 

The good news is that for most people, spider veins don’t pose significant health worries, and we can make them a thing of the past with safe and effective Cutera® laser, a system designed with patient safety, comfort, and results top of mind.   

Our team has put together this informative guide to answer your questions about spider veins, including how they can affect your health and the way our Cutera laser can make them disappear.

What exactly are spider veins?

What we call spider veins are actually tiny capillaries that show up through the surface of your skin as squiggly red, blue, or purple lines. You can get spider veins almost anywhere, including your face, but they most often appear on the legs, ankles, and feet. 

Capillaries, like all veins, have one-way valves that work to regulate blood flow and keep it moving in the right direction. If the valve stops working, blood can get trapped in the tiny vein and cause it to swell. 

Since these capillaries are located just below the surface of your skin, when they swell, you can see them as the unsightly lines and squiggles we call spider veins.   

Is there a reason I have spider veins?

Medical researchers are still trying to uncover the reasons some people get spider veins and others don’t. But they have learned that these troublesome veins are associated with such risk factors as: 

  • Being female
  • Pregnancy and hormonal fluctuation
  • A family history of spider veins
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Sun damage to your skin
  • Chronic constipation
  • Having a job where you stand for long periods 
  • A history of blood clots

You’re also more at risk for spider veins if you experience a trauma that causes significant swelling, such as a broken ankle or foot. 

There are some steps you can take to try to prevent spider veins, like staying at a healthy weight, elevating your legs throughout the day, and wearing sunscreen. But even with the best efforts, many people still develop spider veins.  

Are spider veins harmful to my health?

No, by themselves spider veins aren’t harmful to your health, though their appearance can worsen over time. Many people get these unsightly squiggles, and they don’t cause pain or interfere with daily life. 

For some people, though, spider veins can be associated with a condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Researchers estimate up to 40% of American women and nearly 20% of men have this vascular condition, with 150,000 more adults diagnosed every year.   

CVI results from broken one-way valves in your veins, and although spider veins alone don’t typically cause discomfort, CVI can trigger uncomfortable symptoms. Talk to Dr. Stewart if you have spider veins along with any of the following signs of CVI:

  • Varicose veins in addition to spider veins
  • Achy legs or leg pain
  • Heavy, tired legs
  • Restless legs
  • Swelling in your lower legs, ankles, and/or feet
  • Cramping in your lower legs

You should also talk with Dr. Stewart if you notice skin changes around any bulging or broken veins, such as discoloration, leathery skin, scaliness, or very itchy skin.  

How do you treat spider veins?

We use the Cutera laser system to safely and effectively treat spider veins in almost any location on your body. This system uses special light energy that penetrates beneath your skin to the targeted blood vessels.

The spider veins absorb the energy, which causes the blood inside the tiny vessels to thicken. The veins eventually close and die, and your body absorbs the tissue, causing the spider veins to disappear.

Your body naturally redirects blood flow from the destroyed vessels to other capillaries and veins, so you don’t have to worry. It takes about 2-6 weeks for the permanent results to appear, and you can get touch-up treatments as needed. 

There’s no significant downtime, so you can get back to your usual activities right away. You’ll need to wear sunscreen on the treated skin, as it can burn more easily, and we may recommend skipping strenuous workouts for a few days.   

Schedule an appointment online or over the phone today at Aesthetic Surgery and Dermatology of Cherry Creek to say goodbye to spider veins.