Who gets varicose and spider veins?

Varicose and spider veins can occur in men or women of any age, but most frequently affect women of childbearing years and older. Family history of the problem and aging increase one's tendency to develop varicose and spider veins.

What causes varicose and spider veins?

The causes of varicose and spider veins are not entirely understood. In some instances, the absence or weakness of valves in the veins, which prevent the backward flow of blood away from the heart, may cause the poor circulation. In other cases, weaknesses in the vein walls may cause the pooling of the blood. Less commonly, varicose veins are caused by such diseases as phlebitis (inflammation of the veins) or congenital abnormalities of the veins. Venous disease is generally progressive and cannot be prevented entirely. However, in some cases, wearing support hosiery and maintaining normal weight and regular exercise may be beneficial.

What procedures are available to treat varicose and spider veins?
Varicose veins are frequently treated b eliminating the “bad” veins. This forces the blood to flow through the remaining healthy veins. Various methods can be used to eliminate the problem veins, including, most commonly, surgery or sclerotherapy*. Spider veins cannot be removed through surgery. Sometimes, they disappear when the larger varicose veins feeding the spider veins are removed. Remaining spider veins also can be treated with sclerotherapy* and/or transcutaneous laser treatment.

*Sclerotherapy uses a fine needle to inject a solution directly into the vein. This solution irritates the lining of the vein, causing it to swell and blood to clot. The vein turns into scar tissue that fades from view.

Is one treatment better than the other?
The method you select for treating venous disease should be based on your physician's diagnosis, the size of the veins to be treated, your treatment history, your age, your history of allergies, and your ability to tolerate surgery and anesthesia, among other factors. As noted above, small spider veins cannot be surgically removed and can only be treated with sclerotherapy and/or transcutaneous laser treatment. On the other hand, larger varicose veins may, according to many studies, be better managed through surgery.

What type of doctors provide treatments for varicose and spider veins?
Doctors providing surgical treatment include general and vascular surgeons.