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Skip the Creams and Get Results: Effective Treatments for Spider and Varicose Veins

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Varicose and spider veins can be both unsightly and painful, leading many sufferers in search of relief. Topical antidotes for these visible veins abound at drugstores and on the Internet, promising to eliminate the veins and restore legs’ youthful appearance.

Could it really be as simple as slathering the right ointment on our skin to eliminate this unattractive vein condition? Unfortunately the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” generally applies to topical treatments for spider and varicose veins.

Topical Treatments: Promises and Ingredients

There is no shortage of topical varicose vein treatments promising to eliminate the appearance of the veins and even reduce swelling and pain while increasing circulation in the legs. Some of the most common ingredients found in these creams include:

Vitamin K

This nutrient has been used to reduce the appearance of bruising and rosacea. Creams containing vitamin K may also be effective in diminishing the appearance of spider veins, although the topical solutions will have to be used over and over again to maintain the camouflage effect.

Horse Chestnut

This herb has long been linked to the reduction of inflammation and the strengthening of vessel walls. Like vitamin K solutions, horse chestnut may successfully disguise the appearance of spider veins due to its anti-inflammatory properties. However, like vitamin K, this herb will not provide long-term relief from spider or varicose veins.

Butcher’s Broom

This herb has properties resembling steroids, which may reduce swelling and inflammation. Butcher’s broom is also thought to strengthen and tone veins. As a topical solution, however, butcher’s broom will be no more effective than its counterparts listed above.

The scientific evidence linking these ingredients to healthier vessels is lacking at this time. While topical solutions may help temporarily reduce the appearance of spider and varicose veins, they are not able to get beneath the surface of the skin where the vein condition develops.

Causes of Spider and Varicose Veins

Spider veins tend to appear in a network on the legs, face or abdomen. There are many possible causes of spider veins, including heredity, trauma to the skin, sun exposure and hormonal fluctuations. Because these vessels tend to be more superficial, topical ointments may help reduce their appearance for a time. However, the veins are still present under the skin’s surface and will continue to appear.

The cause of varicose veins is even more complex. These swollen vessels begin inside the vein, where tiny valves keep blood flowing in a single direction. Over time, the valves can become damaged or wear out, allowing blood to pool inside the vein. This can lead to swelling and varicosity, evidenced by those flesh-colored bulging ropes that tend to twist up the lower leg.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Because topical treatments do not penetrate the skin at any significant depth, they are unable to address spider and varicose veins at their source. The only way to effectively treat these vessels is to get rid of them entirely, something topical solutions simply cannot do. Fortunately, there are effective, minimally-invasive treatments available today that can get to the source of the veins and eliminate them, addressing the vein disorder once and for all.

Addressing Symptoms

Another issue with topical treatments is that while they may relieve the appearance of varicose veins, they will not do much to relieve painful symptoms that often accompany them. Common symptoms of varicose veins include:

  • Pain and aching in the legs
  • Swelling of the lower legs, ankles, and feet
  • Heaviness or leg fatigue at the end of the day
  • Restless legs or leg cramping at night
  • Skin itching or burning around the vein

While there are ways to alleviate these symptoms, such as elevating the legs or wearing compression stockings, the symptoms are likely to return. The good news is that vein treatment that eliminates the veins will also eliminate the symptoms—often as soon as the vein procedure is completed.

Minimally Invasive Treatments Available

Vein Clinics of America offer two minimally invasive treatments for eliminating both spider and varicose veins:

Sclerotherapy

This injectable treatment is commonly used to address spider veins and smaller varicose veins. If a vein is located further beneath the skin’s surface, ultrasound imaging may be used to locate the vein and make the injections. Injections of a special solution are placed directly into the vessel, sealing the vein shut so it collapses. Blood is naturally rerouted to healthy veins in the area. Sclerotherapy can be performed in the doctor’s office without any type of anesthesia. It takes just a few minutes to complete, and patients are able to return to regular activities as soon as treatment is over.

Endovenous Laser Therapy

ELT is an effective method for eliminating visible, painful varicose veins. In this procedure, laser energy is delivered directly into the varicose vein, which heats the vessel walls and seals it closed. The laser energy is delivered via a narrow fiber that is inserted into the vein using a micro-incision. The incision is too small to require sutures and leaves no visible scarring afterward. The treated vessel is reabsorbed by the body over time, while blood is rerouted to healthy veins nearby. This procedure is performed in the doctor’s office using local anesthesia and requires no downtime.

While topical treatments make plenty of promises about what they will do for your spider and varicose veins, these products can fail to deliver in most cases. Instead, choose a minimally invasive treatment that will get to the underlying cause of the vein condition and eliminate your unsightly, uncomfortable veins for good.

Concerned about your vein health?

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Satish Vayuvegula
Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is the National Medical Director at Vein Clinics of America. Certified by the American Board of Venous & Lymphatic Medicine, Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is recognized as a physician who has met rigorous standards of knowledge and extensive training in phlebology, the diagnosis and treatment of varicose vein disease and related disorders. Dr. Satish also shares his passion and expertise by serving as a board member of the American Vein and Lymphatic Society, the predominant national organization for venous and lymphatic disease.

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