Even though thread veins affect more than two-thirds of adults, their exact cause still is not known. Also referred to as ‘spider veins’ or ‘varicose veins’, thread veins may leave you feeling self-conscious. Depending on their severity, they may present a fine and blue line you can see through the skin, or they could become a noticeable bulge.
At a biological level, we know that thread veins appear when the blood vessels can begin to weaken. Such weakening may arise due to some conditions, including those that are autoimmune, musculoskeletal, and cardiac.
Your veins rely on two processes for blood to flow through them: valves that will open readily, and regular muscle movements that encourage the blood to circulate. Unlike arteries, they do not have thick walls that cause these processes to happen easily. As such, they’re more sensitive and prone to damage.
While the causes of thread veins are varied and sometimes misunderstood, it’s important to debunk some common misconceptions surrounding them. Such misconceptions include factors that don’t contribute to developing thread veins:
- Skin colour
- Skin type
- Frequent crossing of the legs
- Wearing tight clothes
- Wearing tight boots
- Exposure to hot water (hot baths, hot springs, etc.)
What we do know about thread veins and how they come to be, is that they are often hereditary. People whose parents suffer from thread veins are much more likely to develop the condition themselves, and it also tends to be common among siblings.
Another possible cause of thread veins is trauma. People that have been in major accidents and suffered from crushed skin, destroyed fat and multiple instances of scarring often develop thread veins. If the trauma involved damage to the surrounding muscles, thread veins become even more common. Why? Because veins rely on muscles for a venous return to flow smoothly.
Further research into the subject of various venous conditions shows that most thread vein cases are a result of another underlying venous condition. A lot of thread veins may appear due to underlying varicose veins that are not visible through the skin. Seeing as veins rely on regular muscular movements for smooth venous return, those who lead a sedentary life are also more likely to encounter them.
Other reasons for thread veins include:
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Underlying Gastroenterological or liver tumours
As there are so many potential causes for thread veins, it’s important to seek medical advice to determine the underlying factors that could be causing them. Doing this is particularly important if you are experiencing other symptoms that make you feel unwell.
What are Thread Veins?
Thread veins are small blood vessels found in the outermost layer of the skin’s second barrier, which we refer to as the ‘dermis.’ These veins have become visibly dilated and enlarged. Sometimes, they are also referred to as spider veins, broken veins, venous flares, and surface veins; they affect a significant portion (almost 80%) of adults at some point in their life.
The outermost layer of the dermis is between 2 and 3mm thick, so the more profound the veins’ appearance, the more visible they are. Similarly, if the veins aren’t as large, they may be less noticeable. Depending on your lifestyle factors, this can change over time. Also, the closer your thread veins are to the surface of your dermis, the easier they are for you to see.
You may notice that most thread veins appear on your legs. In some cases, they can appear on your face. If you start to see similar veins on your chest, it’s important to seek medical advice as you may be confusing them with ‘spider nevi,’ which are often a sign of something more serious.
Thread veins that appear on the face are often less prominent than the ones you see on your legs. This is because the blood vessels in the dermis are smaller, which means there’s less potential for them to stand out. Usually, they arise due to too much UV exposure, excess alcohol intake, and conditions such as acne and rosacea.
As for thread veins on your chest; they’re less common. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s easy to confuse them with a clinical sign named ‘spider nevi.’ If you start to notice thread veins on your chest, ask your GP for advice – they’ll soon be able to tell the difference between spider nevi and thread veins.
Many types of Thread Vein
Thread veins on the legs tend to be much more pronounced. There are multiple reasons for this. First, the veins in your legs are more significant than the ones on your face, as they serve a more significant surface area. Also, if you remain stationary, your blood pools there. As we’ve mentioned, your muscles, encourage the valves in your veins to open and close, allowing for smooth venous flow. When you spend, all day sat down, your blood pools, causing the veins to broaden. Unlike your arteries, they don’t feature a springy layer that allows them to return to their usual shape. As a result, the more stationary you remain, the larger the veins become.
Although the skin on your legs is thicker than the skin on your face, leg veins can become especially prominent in this area because:
- Your veins are larger
- You’re more likely to experience blood pooling due to gravity and lack of use
- If you are obese, venous flow from larger vessels is disrupted, making the thread veins on your legs more prominent still
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Possible Thread Vein Treatments
There are different ways to treat thread veins, all of which depend on the severity of the condition. Milder cases of superficial thread veins can sometimes be treated by wearing compression socks that boost circulation. Also, implementing lifestyle changes such as walking or running. Daily exercise is beneficial as you use the muscles that encourage your vein valves to open and close, promoting better blood flow and reducing the pooling that enlarges them.
Other self-help measures include elevating your legs when you’re resting, as this makes it easier for the blood to return to the heart. Similarly, if you are overweight, losing weight places less pressure on the veins and enhances venous flow.
However, depending on the self-care measures you engage in, you may need a cosmetic treatment for your thread veins. Or, you might want to seek out a treatment such as Sclerotherapy because the aesthetic side-effects are making you feel self-conscious. As many GPs don’t offer Sclerotherapy as a first-line treatment, you may find that you have to seek advice from a clinician such as Dr Dhesi who will provide it via a private route.
The most effective and one of the most common treatments for thread veins is Sclerotherapy, particularly microsclerotherapy. Widely used to treat thread veins along with various other skin conditions, Sclerotherapy has been commonly used in both cosmetics and medicine since the early 1930s.
While Sclerotherapy is mostly used to treat small superficial blood vessels for cosmetic reasons, it can also drastically improve ongoing venous conditions.
What is Sclerotherapy?Sclerotherapy, sometimes also referred to as microsclerotherapy, is a medical procedure where a chemical is injected directly into a vein to destroy it. The compound injected into the vein is called a sclerosant, and it is usually a type of salt solution.
How does Sclerotherapy work?When injected, the sclerosant, i.e. The salt solution, damages the inner layer of the blood vessel and causes the body’s clotting cascade to kick in. Don’t worry; this isn’t the same as the dangerous blood clots that sometimes appear in the media. Instead, the clot that appears in your veins as a result of Sclerotherapy will eventually cause the vessel to die and turn into scar tissue. When this happens, it is no longer visible.
During a Sclerotherapy treatment, the sclerosant is injected directly into the vein through a small needle. When in contact with the innermost lining of the blood vessel, the salt solution immediately reacts, and the decomposing of the vessel begins. Your doctor will ask you to elevate your legs during the procedure while ensuring you remain as comfortable as possible. Unlike many venous treatments, Sclerotherapy has quick recovery time. As such, you can return to your day-to-day activities before you know it.
Is Sclerotherapy effective?There are lots of techniques and treatments available for thread veins. Such therapies include laser destruction. However, if your thread veins are small enough, Sclerotherapy is the most effective solution possible. At the same time, it is minimally invasive, which means you can benefit from it in an informal setting. Whether you will benefit from it, however, depends on how severe your thread veins are.
Is Sclerotherapy safe?Sclerotherapy is the most widespread and effective treatment for thread veins and is considered to be safe for patients. As with all procedures, both cosmetic and medical, Sclerotherapy can cause side effects.
Most of the common side effects associated with Sclerotherapy are mild and will usually resolve within a few days or weeks of the procedure. Some of the common side effects of Sclerotherapy include:
- Raised red areas around the injection side
- Lumps in veins, especially large ones
- Brown lines or spots at the injection site
- Neurovascularization (formation of new blood vessels)
However, as with any medical treatment, a few patients will experience severe side-effects if they undergo Sclerotherapy. At Rutland Aesthetics, we perform a full and in-depth evaluation of each patient before using Sclerotherapy. Our assessment is guided by Dr Dhesi, who possesses the medical expertise required to determine whether it’s the right treatment for you. As a dedicated clinician, he will take a safe approach and will never put you at risk during the thread vein treatment procedure. During your consultation, he will also discuss rarer side effects.
Am I a good candidate for Sclerotherapy?If you are suffering from superficial thread veins on the face and legs, you may be a good candidate for Sclerotherapy. People suffering from venous insufficiency may also benefit from this treatment. However, this depends on whether they have any other underlying medical conditions. Again, Dr Dhesi will perform a full medical assessment before administering this treatment, to ensure you remain safe.
How long does the treatment last and what is the recovery time for Sclerotherapy?Sclerotherapy is a routine outpatient procedure, and patients leave the clinic immediately afterwards. The length of the procedure itself varies depending on the size of the area treated; as well as the speed and experience of the practitioner. However, many patients find they can leave within half-an-hour.
Sclerotherapy aftercareIf patients have thread veins removed, they are advised to wear compression socks or stockings for between one and three weeks. Your doctor will provide more advice on the day of your procedure. More severe cases of thread veins, including venous insufficiency and varicose veins might require wearing compression garments for up to six weeks.
It is important to walk around as much as you can manage following your Sclerotherapy. At the same time, they will discourage engaging in heavy cardiovascular exercise. Also, you should cover the treated area and keep it away from UV rays.
How Can Rutland Aesthetics Help
At Rutland Aesthetics, we benefit from the expertise of Dr Dhesi. As a medically qualified doctor who specialises in Aesthetic Medicine, he will perform a full assessment of your medical history, your thread veins, and any factors contributing to them. After your consultation finishes, he will provide advice on treatment options, which may include Sclerotherapy.
If you feel as though you could benefit from our interventions, get in touch with a member of our team today.