Although patients often use the terms Spider Veins and Varicose Veins interchangeably, these are two separate, albeit often related, issues with the health of your venous system.
Spider Veins and varicose veins are similar in that they are both unsightly, but easily treatable. However this is where their similarities end. Spider veins are truly cosmetic in nature, even though they may sometimes be an indicator of more severe underlying vein problems. Spider veins typically measure less than one millimeter in diameter and, unless clustered together, are typically not as noticeable to the eye as bulging varicose veins. Spider veins appear as thread-like red, blue or purplish lines on the skin surface, often times resembling a bruise when they occur in clusters.
Varicose veins are the large bulging veins protruding above the level of the skin, often looking like bluish rope underneath the skin. These bulging veins tend to be associated with symptoms of heaviness and aching in the leg.
Both types of veins can be easily treated in the convenience of my Albuquerque vein center, though the treatment protocol differs for each type of diseased vein. After an initial consultation and ultrasound (if patient presents with symptoms of varicose veins/venous reflux), a personal treatment plan will be developed that may include one or a combination of procedures. Varicose veins are primarily treated via endovenous laser ablation, often in conjunction with ambulatory phlebectomy and endovenous chemical ablation, depending on the severity and source of the diseased veins. The “gold standard” treatment for spider veins is sclerotherapy injection, performed by our experienced Nurse Sclerotherapist, Bess Holt, RN. In the case of the finest threadlike veins on the nose/face that are too small to effectively treat with injections, we have the revolutionary VeinWave treatment available.
Most varicose vein treatment is covered by insurance if the patient is symptomatic and if ultrasound shows venous reflux (backwards flow in the veins). Treatment for the more cosmetic spider veins is not covered by insurance. A series of 3-5 treatment sessions are typically needed for optimal results (although some patients may require more or fewer treatments).
Varicose veins should always be evaluated by a vein specialist, especially if they are symptomatic (painful, swollen, or if you have heavy, tired, achy legs at the end of the day). Call 505-848-8346 to schedule a Free Vein Screening if you have questions about your varicose or spider veins.
-Dr. Robert Cutchen