More than 80 million people in the United States and thousands of people in the Chicagoland area have problems with their veins; the vessels that return blood to the heart once it has circulated through the body (as opposed to arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood from the hear to the rest of the body). Many people suffering from venous disorders and symptoms of spider or varicose veins come to vascular surgeons such as Dr. Summers in Chicago and Lakeview looking for treatment either to relieve pain of varicose or spider veins or improve the visible appearance of diseased veins.

Veins have one-way valves that help keep blood flowing in the proper direction. If these valves stop functioning the way they are supposed to, blood can flow backwards and pool in the vein, causing it to stretch. These enlarged blood vessels are classified into two groups: spider veins and varicose veins. Spider veins are visible on the surface of the skin as red, blue or purple lines; varicose veins are larger and deeper and often manifest as bluish bumps beneath the skin. Please read more about these two conditions below and see our Procedures page for information on how they can be treated.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are swollen, dark blue or purple blood vessels that are visible and palpable beneath the skin. They often look like twisted cords, and usually appear on the calves, inside of the legs, and on and around the ankles.

Most people with varicose veins seek cosmetic treatment to reduce their appearance on the legs. Treatment often takes care of minor discomfort associated with the condition such as swelling, fatigue, itching and cramps.

Sometimes, however, more significant problems can develop if veins are left untreated. Venous insufficiency occurs when blood cannot return to the heart. This, in turn, can lead to further symptoms such as pain, aching, itching, skin changes, bleeding, infection, and skin ulcers. For this reason, patients with varicose veins should be examined by a professional.

Spider Veins

Spider veins, or telangiectasias, are small, thin, blood vessels visible beneath the skin, They appear most commonly on the face and legs and may look like a series of likes, tree branches, or a spider or web-like shape with a dark center. It is estimated that they can affect nearly have the adult woman in the US and many woman in Chicago.

Spider veins are caused by a variety of factors, including heredity, pregnancy (and other conditions that involve changes in hormone levels), weight gain, long periods of standing, and certain medications. They often appear red or blue, and because they form on the face, thighs, calves and ankles, many patients are bothered by the way they look. Others seek medical treatment for uncomfortable symptoms such as aching, burning, swelling and cramping.

FAQs about Varicose & Spider Veins

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about varicose and spider veins and various treatment options Dr. Summers performs. If you have a question that is not answered here, feel free to ask Dr. Summers by calling our office or by filling out the form on our Contact Us page.

What are spider and varicose veins?

Veins are the vessels that return blood to the heart once it has circulated through the body (as opposed to arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body). They have one-way valves that help keep blood flowing in the proper direction. If these valves stop functioning the way they are supposed to, blood can flow backwards and pool in the vein, causing it to stretch. These enlarged blood vessels are classified into two groups: spider veins and varicose veins.

Spider veins are visible red or blue blood vessels that may spread like a web across the skin anywhere on the body, most commonly on the face and legs. Varicose veins are blood vessels with weak walls that swell or balloon outward, raising the skin surface.

Are spider and varicose veins common?

Yes. More than 80 million people in the United States have problems with their veins, including about 50 percent of women.

What causes spider and varicose veins?

It is not entirely known what causes spider and varicose veins, although many likely factors have been identified. The most significant contributing factor is heredity. Others include:

  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Birth control pills
  • Estrogen and progesterone
  • Aging
  • Occupations that involve standing
  • Obesity
  • Leg Injury

Can they be harmful?

Yes. Abnormal veins in the legs can cause pain (including fatigue, heaviness, aching, burning, throbbing, itching, cramping and restlessness) and prevent proper skin nutrition, leading to eczema, inflammation and ulceration.

I don’t see any red or purple vessels and I don’t have any bumps. Could I still have a venous disorder?

Yes. Physical examination, often with the aid of specialized equipment such as non-invasive ultrasound, by a professional can detect problems with blood vessels that aren’t visible otherwise.

What is sclerotherapy?

Treatments involve one or more injections during one or more sessions, depending on the type, number and severity of the veins being treated. By the end of the treatment program, the veins are no longer visible on the skin surface. Sclerotherapy usually also relieves symptoms associated with enlarged veins and prevents further complications from occurring.

Learn More About Sclerotherapy

How is ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy different?

Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy allows doctors to treat problematic veins that aren’t visible on the skin surface by monitoring veins on an ultrasound screen during the procedure.

Learn More About Ultrasound-guided Sclerotherapy

Are there alternative treatments?

Yes. These include microphlebectomy and TriVex.

Microphlebectomy removes varicose veins with a special hook is used through multiple tiny incisions that do not usually require stitches and leave minimal scarring. Recent advances have made it possible to perform the procedure using only local anesthesia and light sedation in a doctor’s office as an outpatient. After the microphlebectomy you will be asked to wear compression garments temporarily. The incisions typically heal within two weeks.

TriVex employs a powerful light that targets only the damaged vein, which is then precisely removed with a powered resector under local anesthesia. The treated area is then flushed clean through a process called tumescent infiltration. Advantages of TriVex over other vein removal methods are faster procedure and recovery time, and less scarring.

Learn More About Microphlebectomy

Can I do anything to prevent the development of spider and varicose veins, or to reduce their side effects?

Yes. Spider and varicose vein formation and complications may be prevented by wearing sunscreen on the face, exercising regularly, controlling your weight, elevating legs when resting, not crossing the legs when sitting, avoiding long periods of standing, wearing elastic support stockings, and eating high-fiber foods.