Spider Veins

Spider Veins

“Spider veins” are a general term used for the thin hair-like veins that appear on the legs. The development of these veins is also genetic, hormonal and related to standing for long periods.

There is a wonderfully vast and complex system of veins that are involved in transporting blood from our legs back to our heart. Superficial or surface veins are veins that aid in temperature control. Previous sections discussed the deep and superficial (or saphenous) system. There is an even more superficial system comprising a subcutaneous and dermal system where veins that are usually invisible to the human eye become dilated and appear as thread veins.

What are these veins?

Veins that are 1-3 mm in diameter are known as reticular veins.  These veins are usually blue in colour and are not found deeper than 5 mm. They often draw a blood supply from the superficial system or a small perforating vein. Telangiectasia’s are even more superficial, smaller veins, ranging from 0.1 mm - 1 mm in diameter.

There are four types:

  • Simple
  • Spider
  • Papular
  • Arborised

Varicose veins are, by definition, larger than 3 mm in diameter.


Only about 5% of patients with these types of veins (assuming there are no associated varicose veins or venous symptoms) will have reflux of the saphenous system. However, it is now believed that there is often an abnormal deeper vein causing some of the more superficial veins and that inspecting the leg only may not be sufficient. A brief scan will look for the major areas of where a feeding vein may be refluxing and causing the network of visible veins. This all depends on the location of the veins and other leg symptoms. If there are varicose veins or symptoms of chronic venous disease a full venous scan will be necessary.

What is the treatment?

Treatment of these veins is called sclerotherapy.

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