FAQ – Leg Thread Veins and Spider Veins

How to treat thread veins

What are thread veins?

Thread veins are tiny blood vessels which run close to the surface of the skin and look like fine red, or sometimes purple, wiggly lines. They’re also sometimes called ‘spider veins’ or ‘broken veins’, although the veins aren’t infact broken but only slightly enlarged. The medical term for them is telangiectasia.

What causes them?

Usually there’s no obvious cause. Thread veins tend to develop as we age and our skin and blood vessels become less elastic. Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and the menopause are thought to provoke their development – the reason why women are more prone to them than men.

You can also inherit a family tendency to the problem. Other causes include too much sunbathing, exposure to wind or extreme temperatures, cortico-steroid medicines and radiotherapy. Jobs that involve prolonged standing may aggravate the condition, but they don’t actually cause it. Although you may not like the look of them, thread veins aren’t dangerous, but they tend to become larger and increase in number over time.

Who gets them?

Nearly all of us as we age, apparently. Around one in five women in their 20s have thread veins, a figure that rises to around half by the age of forty and continues to increase. By the age of 70 over 70 per cent of women have some thread veins.

Dr Joney De Souza advises treatment sooner rather than later. ‘Smaller thread veins are easy to treat. Later on they can be more difficult. Younger women could save themselves a great deal of time, trouble and expense if they opted for early treatment.

How are they treated?

There are several options but the gold standard of treatments and still considered to be the most successful is Microsclerotherapy for veins less than 4mm in diameter. Sclerotherapy treatment was originally developed in the 1920s for the treatment of varicose veins. This was refined for the treatment of thread veins, and this is what we now call microsclerotherapy. Micro simply refers to the very small veins targeted by this procedure. Both these treatments are now very popular and successful.

This treatment uses a tiny needle (smaller than a sewing needle) to inject a solution (scelerosant) that causes microscopic damage to the cells lining the vein. The vein gradually shrinks and disappears over a period of about eight weeks. At an initial consultation your veins will be assessed and you’ll be advised which form of treatment is most appropriate for you. Normally a test patch will be done at the same time.

Is the treatment painful?

It shouldn’t be. A local anaesthetic cream can be used if you wish, you may notice the pricking sensation of the needle but that is usually all.  Treatments normally last for around 30 minutes.

Are there any after effects?

With Microsclerotherapy the veins may appear worse immediately after treatment and the site of the injections can look rather like insect bites. There may also be some bruising and sometimes the treated area may itch a bit. After a week or so the veins should begin to fade and they’ll continue to do so for up to eight weeks, or even longer for bigger veins.

How many treatments are needed?

On average three, but more may be necessary, depending on the number of veins and their size and location. Repeat injections can be carried out one week later but it is advisable to wait for one month between treatments.  In practice most people require 2 to 6 treatments at 4 to 8 week intervals so it may take more than six months to achieve the final result.

How successful is it?

You need to have realistic expectations. ‘Some thread veins can be quite difficult to treat because they don’t always run obligingly parallel to the skin surface,’ says Dr Cotterill. ‘Some are like big dippers they go up and down and a laser light doesn’t always reach deeply enough to destroy them.’ Veins in the lower part of the leg, particularly the ankle area, are more difficult to treat than those on the thighs. It’s not normally possible to get rid of all the veins, but around 75 – 90 per cent clearance is common.

Are there any risks or side effects?

Complications are unusual, but occasionally a skin ulcer can develop after sclerotherapy and some patients experience a brown discolouration of the skin which may take several months to fade away. Around 10 per cent of people treated get ‘matting’ after sclerotherapy – a cluster of tiny red vessels around the treated area. However these can normally be cleared by laser treatment later. A very rare complication is the development of a blood clot in the vein (deep vein thrombosis).

For further information or to arrange a consultation, call Dr Joney De Souza Aesthetic Clinic at 98 Crawford Street on 020 7043 0748

 or email  info@joneydesouza.com

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