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Will Spider Veins Grow Without Treatment?

Jan 16, 2024
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For many people, the worst thing about spider veins is their conspicuous, web-like appearance — and the possibility that they may worsen or spread further without treatment. Learn more about spider vein progression and treatment here.

As seasoned vascular experts who offer a full scope of minimally invasive treatment solutions for unsightly, uncomfortable, or otherwise problematic leg veins, our skilled team at Somerset Surgical Associates, LLC fields a lot of questions about varicose veins and spider veins.  

One of the top concerns people have about spider veins is whether they’ll worsen or spread without treatment. Here, we discuss how these web-like veins develop, explore the minor risks of leaving them untreated, and explain how we can help you get rid of them in no time flat. 

When small surface veins become visibly damaged 

Spider veins are small, damaged veins and capillaries that appear as red, blue, or purple “webs” along the surface of your skin. These sprawling vascular abnormalities occur when a section of interconnected vessels become swollen, distended, and in some cases, ruptured. While they can develop on any area of skin, most spider veins emerge in one of two places: 

Facial spider veins 

On facial skin, spider veins and tiny burst capillaries are more likely to appear around the nose or along the cheeks. They’re often caused by excessive sun exposure, but can also be a sign of a chronic skin condition called rosacea, or lifestyle factors like alcohol consumption.  

Leg spider veins 

Lower extremity spider veins tend to appear along the back of the thigh, behind the knee, or on the lower leg. Given that they’re a smaller, milder, and more superficial type of varicose vein, it makes sense that they develop in the same way: via vein dysfunction and poor circulation. 

Your leg veins, including their smaller surface branches and capillaries, often work against gravity to keep blood flowing to your heart. When this constant pressure weakens or damages their one-way valves, blood flow slows down — and the affected vein areas swell beyond their normal size and shape. The tiny capillaries at the ends of a dilated vein branch may even burst.   

A very common, mostly harmless vascular problem 

If you have web-like dilated surface veins, you’re not alone: About 80% of men and 85% of women have spider veins or slightly larger reticular veins on their legs. Spider veins measure less than a millimeter in diameter, while reticular veins are one to three millimeters. 

So, are spider veins harmful, and will they worsen or spread without treatment?  

In most cases, the worst thing about spider veins and reticular veins is their appearance: 

These dilated surface veins can be uncomfortably eye-catching, especially if they form an extensive, sprawling reticulation of dark lines across a sizable area of skin. 

However, it’s important to note that just as poor circulation and sluggish blood flow can play a central role in spider vein and reticular vein development, it can also cause them to worsen or spread further. Spider veins won’t necessarily spread further, but they can — and they might.   

The very same factors that can contribute to vein dysfunction, poor circulation, and spider vein development can also make existing spider vein progression more likely.  

These include uncontrollable factors like older age and female gender, but they also include modifiable factors like inactivity, excess body weight, smoking, sitting a lot, or standing too much. Addressing modifiable factors can keep spider veins in check and help minimize their spread potential.     

Get rid of unwanted spider veins with sclerotherapy

For most people, the biggest problem with spider veins is their prominent appearance — and the possibility that their sprawling web may grow over time. For these cosmetic reasons, many people remove them with a simple, minimally invasive treatment called sclerotherapy.  

Sclerotherapy is the gold-standard treatment for spider veins and reticular veins that appear across your thighs, behind your knees, along your calves or shins, or near your ankles. It’s also an ideal solution for facial spider veins and small to mid-sized varicose leg veins. 

During sclerotherapy, we inject a sclerosing agent into the unwanted veins. The ablative liquid irritates the lining of the vein, causing it to swell shut. As your blood reroutes itself into healthy nearby veins, the targeted spider vein web collapses and eventually fades away. At Somerset Surgical Associates, Varithena® is one type of FDA-approved sclerosing agent we offer. 

Are you ready to get rid of spider veins? We can help. Give us a call today, or use our easy online booking feature to schedule a visit at your nearest Somerset Surgical Associates, LLC office in Somerville, Somerset, or Hillsborough, New Jersey any time.