With an appropriately creepy-crawly name, spider veins aren't as bad they look. Although they can be uncomfortable on occasion, these reddish-purple, squiggly clusters are very common, not dangerous, and considered a cosmetic nuisance, says New York dermatologist Melanie Grossman. Spider veins usually pop up on the legs and face, but can be found on other areas of the body as well.
Spider veins are basically genetic, but their appearance can be accelerated by birth control pills and fertility drugs. Hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause can aggravate them, as can weight gain or sitting or standing for long periods of time. You may be able to minimize them by keeping weight down and frequently elevating legs above the heart, says Grossman. Walking is also a good way to help blood circulation in the legs.
Once they've appeared, you can make them look less obvious, especially in the early stages, by applying self-tanner, but the only way to eliminate them is by seeing a dermatologist who can inject the veins with a solution that causes an inflammatory response in the vein, at which point the body removes the vein (called sclerotherapy).
Laser therapy works on the same principle, but the laser causes an inflammatory response using light. About three to five sessions are required for either treatment, depending on the number and size of the veins.
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