I have spider veins on my legs. What options are available to remove them?

Answers from Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.

Several options are available to remove spider veins — thin red lines or web-like networks of blood vessels that appear on your legs and feet.

Spider veins are usually harmless, though they can sometimes cause aching, burning or pain, especially when standing or sitting for long periods of time.

If you experience symptoms or are concerned about the appearance of spider veins, treatment options include:

  • Sclerotherapy. In this procedure, your doctor injects the veins with a solution that scars and closes those veins, causing the blood to reroute through healthier veins. In a few weeks, treated spider veins fade. Although the same vein may need to be injected more than once, sclerotherapy is usually effective if done correctly. Sclerotherapy doesn't require anesthesia and can be done in your doctor's office. Side effects include swelling, itching and skin color changes in the treated area.
  • Laser surgery. Laser surgery works by sending strong bursts of light into the vein that make the vein slowly fade and disappear. No incisions or needles are used. The treatment is often less effective than sclerotherapy and can have side effects, including redness, bruising, itching and swelling in the treated area. Complications of laser surgery include blistering of the skin. When the blisters heal, they can leave permanent scars.

After treatment, blood vessels gradually fade over several months, but they may not disappear completely. Also, new spider veins can develop in the same area that could warrant additional treatments.

Nov. 17, 2011