Do Spider Vein Cream and Gel Treatments Work?
Spider veins and varicose veins are a natural part of the aging process. Some people might develop spider veins earlier in life due to a number of different reasons, while others may live without them until a ripe old age.
The truth of the matter is that you can’t really control how and when spider or varicose veins develop, but there are steps you can take to try to prevent them, and remove them if they are bothering you.
If you find them bothersome or uncomfortable you might find yourself wondering whether those spider vein treatment gels and creams really work. Or is it all a marketing ploy? Here’s what you need to know in this blog.
What Are the Common Causes of Spider Veins?
Our entire body is comprised of an expansive network of veins. The purpose of this network is to carry blood to the heart.
The blood that runs through our veins only runs in one direction — each vein contains a one-way valve that prevents blood from flowing backward.
In short, spider veins begin to make an appearance when these valves start to deteriorate and weaken over time. Essentially, your blood has a tough time flowing in the right direction and might begin to pool inside your veins.
The result is bulging in the veins which then begin to branch out, causing the appearance of spider veins. Spider veins can form just about anywhere on the body, but the most common areas are on the legs, face, hands, and feet.
They most commonly appear as thin blue, purple, or red blood vessels that snake out like a spider web or the legs of a spider — hence the name.
Risk Factors for Spider Veins
As mentioned, spider veins can affect everyone differently. Some people might develop more prominent veins as they age, while others develop hardly any.
Much of the time, this depends on the following risk factors:
- Your genetics — almost 90 percent of people who develop spider veins do so because it’s hereditary
- Your gender — females are far more likely to develop spider veins as they age
- Your weight — being overweight/obese puts you at a much greater risk of developing spider veins because of the extra pressure on the lower extremities
- Hormonal fluctuations — high amounts of estrogen are notorious for weakening vein valves, causing spider veins to develop
- Extended periods of sitting and standing — your veins must work harder to pump blood to your heart, which puts them under strain
- Vein damage or blood clotting to illness or disease
And don’t forget about sun damage. Harmful UV rays can damage the skin and veins beneath it, causing spider veins on the face and hands.
Spider Vein Topical Treatments: What You Need to Know
Yes, there are a plethora of topical products on the market today that make bold claims like being able to eliminate, shrink, or fade spider and varicose veins.
Most of these creams are beneficial in reducing the swelling of spider and varicose veins. But this is not a long-term fix and it will not eliminate them permanently.
Some common ingredients that you’ll find any many topical gels and creams include:
- Vitamin K — usually used to reduce bruising and help with conditions such as rosacea
- Horse chestnut — a potent herb that helps alleviate inflammation and can strengthen blood vessel walls
- Butcher’s Broom — likened to a natural steroid, this potent herb also helps to reduce inflammation, and strengthen vein walls
At present, there is very little, if any, scientific proof that these ingredients can strengthen blood vessels over time. Yes, they may help to fight off inflammation, but they do not address the root cause of the issue with spider veins.
This is because topical solutions just don’t have the power to penetrate deep enough underneath the skin to where the true problem lies. The aim of these products is to merely treat the symptoms and not the root cause.
Minimally Invasive Treatments That Work
If you are very unhappy with the look and feel of your veiny skin and want to eliminate them completely, for the long term, you have options. But they don’t involve creams, gels, or other skincare treatments.
Instead, there are a number of minimally invasive procedures that suit spider vein removal. Some of the most popular include:
This is probably one of the most popular treatments that address spider veins, as well as small, yet bothersome, varicose veins.
It’s an injectable treatment that essentially seals troublesome veins shut, redirecting blood flow to healthy surrounding veins.
A vascular specialist injects a specialized solution into the veins so that it collapses. As a result, blood reroutes to functional veins, and the appearance of spider or varicose veins decreases dramatically, or all together.
This treatment is popular because of its efficacy, simplicity, and non-invasive nature. It’s also quick enough to perform in your doctor’s office, without anesthesia.
Endovenous Laser Therapy (or ELT)
This treatment is particularly popular and effective in treating painful varicose veins and widespread spider veins.
A specialist uses laser energy to collapse the troublesome veins, seal them closed, and redirect blood flow to healthy veins nearby. The body eventually reabsorbs the tissue of the sealed-off veins over time.
Using a small, narrow fiber, the laser penetrates through the skin and into the vein with a micro-incision. There is no need for sutures for the incision because it’s so small.
The procedure is also popular because it requires little to no downtime. It’s also performed in your doctor’s office and doesn’t call for anesthesia, either.
Radiofrequency Ablation (or RFA)
This treatment is not necessarily targeted at treating spider veins, but it is a good option for treating chronic venous insufficiency. A common result of this condition is varicose veins.
The procedure for RFA is similar to that of ELT, except a specialist uses heat to collapse diseased veins and close them off for good. They insert a catheter into the vein, sending heat via radiofrequency into it, sealing off the vein.
The body reabsorbs the remaining tissue over time. As with an ELT procedure, it’s short, effective, and requires no anesthesia.
How to Prevent Spider Veins: Top Tips
While you can endeavor to prevent spider veins throughout your lifetime, there’s no guarantee they’ll never make an appearance. Even the healthiest individuals might develop spider veins as their skin ages.
Certain lifestyle choices and self-care routines can certainly help, though. Some of these include:
- Maintain a moderate weight — staying fit and healthy greatly reduces your risk of vein troubles as you age
- Keep active — make an effort to encourage healthy blood flow by moving your body on a regular basis
- Limit your sun exposure — harmful UV rays are the catalyst for sun damage and spider veins, especially on the face
- Wear sunscreen and a hat — if you need your dose of sunshine, make sure you lather up in sunscreen to keep sun damage at bay
- Compression stockings — if you struggle with poor blood flow and have a family history of vein troubles, compression stockings are a good preventative
- Promote healthy blood flow around the body — drink plenty of water and eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Try to avoid wearing very tight clothing on a regular basis as this can restrict blood flow to the extremities
- Keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum, and if you smoke, consider cutting back or quitting altogether
- Keep your legs elevated — make an effort to raise your legs slightly above your head at the end of the day to promote good blood flow
- Limit your use of hot tubs and saunas — this can only increase the swelling of both spider and varicose veins
At the end of the day, you don’t have to live with spider veins or painful varicose veins if they trouble you.
For many people, spider veins are harmless and don’t cause any pain or irritation. But if you don’t like the look of them, you have the option to remove them!
Looking for Professional Spider Vein Treatment?
It’s safe to say that topical gels and creams for spider veins are not going to make a huge difference to their appearance in the long run. Even if they do work for a time, it’s not a long-term treatment option.
What does work is the minimally invasive treatment options listed above, such as sclerotherapy. If you’re looking for an ivy-league trained professional and advanced peripheral vascular specialist, Dr. Rishi Panchal is your go-to.
Get in touch with IVY Cardiovascular and Vein Center for more.