The Science Behind Spider Veins

by Amy Boyington

Anyone can get spider veins. It is currently estimated that more than half of all women and nearly as many men in the US alone have vein problems. With time, your risk of getting them increases. For most people, aside from the cosmetic inconvenience, spider veins won’t cause any additional issues. For a few, however, spider veins can be a problem that’s more than skin-deep.

The Science Behind Spider Veins

No matter which group you belong to, if you have spider veins, knowing what they are, what to watch out for, and what treatments are available is essential.


What Are Spider Veins?

Spider veins are any small blood vessels that develop irregularities just under the surface of the skin. They are called “spider veins” because they look similar to a spider web. A spider vein can be a single, thin, raised, jagged line under the skin. It can also be a cluster of veins.


Spider veins may only show up as raised lines in some cases. Sometimes they have a faint blue tint. At other times the veins show up in vivid purples and reds. Spider veins are most commonly found on the legs though they may also develop on just about any part of the body, including the face, neck, and hands.


The proper or medical term for spider veins is telangiectasias. These dilated blood vessels usually measure 1 millimeter or less in diameter. For most people, they don’t cause many problems, though that can change if they become prone to bleeding.


Are There Health Risks Related to Spider Veins?

Spider veins in and of themselves are not dangerous, though they may be a sign of an underlying issue. However, if any of your “spider veins” bleed,  bulge, swell, or cause the skin around them to thicken, you should see a doctor right away. This may be a sign of severe valve weakening or another severe circulatory issue.


Internal spider veins, on the other hand, are usually a sign of a more serious issue. “Spider veins” can show up in the brain and intestines among other places. These internal spider veins aren’t able to be detected without specialized equipment and are no more likely to develop if you have external spider veins. Internal spider veins are often a sign of insufficient blood supply, blood back up, or a more grave ailment.


What Causes Spider Veins?


While there are a few things that can speed up the development of spider veins, the usual cause is aging. Genetics also play a part in determining where spider veins appear and how complicated the problem is.


Spider veins are, in most cases, the result of weakening veins and valves causing irregular blood flow or blood flow changes. Veins naturally exhaust as we age and often this will result in the appearance of spider veins. However, there are a handful of factors that can cause spider veins to become more pronounced or occur with higher frequency. These factors include:


  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Swelling
  • Hormonal Changes
  • Blood Clots
  • Trauma to Skin and Tissue
  • Standing Occupations
  • Age and Genetic Differences


Can You Treat or Prevent Spider Veins?

If you have spider veins, wondering “How do I make my spider veins disappear?” shouldn’t be unfamiliar. These are unattractive. They’re annoying to look at. They can even harm your self-confidence. There are also plenty of treatments for spider veins. However, some of them are effective, and others are potentially harmful.


Effective Spider Vein Treatments and Preventatives:


  • Compression Stockings – Compression is recommended after nearly every vein procedure. Compression stockings have been shown to be an effective preventative by supporting weak veins and preventing blood from collecting in them, eliminating the possibility of spider vein formation.




  • Surgery – Typically surgery is reserved for more extensive, varicose-type veins. As spider veins may turn into varicose veins over time if neglected and may be found in mixed groups, a surgical option for them shouldn’t be ruled out immediately. Vein removal surgeries include ligation (typing off a vein) and stripping (removal of a vein or vein cluster).



  • Lasers and Light Therapies – Laser and light therapies can be very efficient. Also, they require no needles or cutting of any kind. Depending on your pain level you may not even need anesthetic. However, they are less likely to work as vein size increases. That said, there’s no harm in trying laser treatments before moving on to more invasive options.


  • Sclerotherapy – For spider veins, sclerotherapy was the treatment of choice for many years (until laser treatment began to become a more affordable alternative). During a sclerotherapy treatment, a solution is injected directly into the vein being treated. The vein is then forced to close off. Blood is re-routed through healthier nearby veins. Once they are closed, the veins will be absorbed into the surrounding tissue and “disappear” from sight.


  • Exercise and Improved Posture – While lousy posture hasn’t been definitively linked to spider veins, maintaining the best posture possible can improve blood flow. Better circulation leads to a lower chance of getting spider veins. Exercise can also improve circulation enough to bolster vein health and reduce the appearance of spider veins to an extent.


Spider Vein Remedies to Avoid:

  • Lotions – Taking care of your skin is necessary but no matter what kind of lotion or cream you apply, it will not make your spider veins go away. Keep in mind that any rubbing or self-massage of spider or varicose veins can be dangerous unless a doctor has given you the go-ahead.



  • Direct Essential Oil Application – Applying essential oils directly to the skin is always a bad idea. It could lead to chemical burns (due to the highly concentrated compounds in the essential oils) or worse. There is no evidence that essential oils can do anything to treat vein problems of any kind.


  • Massage Therapy – Massaging spider veins or varicose veins is usually a bad idea. Any trained massage therapist will be exceptionally careful around either of these vein types and will avoid adding additional pressure to the area. Remember, spider veins and varicose veins are caused by problems with blood flow and pressure. Massage can make these problems worse, or cause the already stressed veins to stretch or burst.


Where Can I Get Vein Treatments?


Finding spider vein treatment in the US is pretty straightforward. However, the treatment center or clinic you choose will depend on the type of treatment you want. For most people, the fast, non-surgical treatments mentioned above will do the trick. Those treatments can be found in specialized clinics and dermatology centers across the country. For more severe vein problems, or if you have any health complications, treatment in a hospital setting or while under anesthesia will be required.


How Long Will Spider Vein Treatments Last?


Spider vein treatments are permanent for the veins that are treated. However, there is no way to guarantee that more spider veins won’t show up. After vein treatments, it’s important to do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle and provide support to your veins to the best of your ability. That said, whether or not you have any reappearing spider veins is determined by not only your lifestyle but also by your genetics.

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