Thread veins are the bane of many women’s lives. Just about every woman gets thread veins on the legs from a young age. Although not medically significant (i.e. they are not dangerous to health), they certainly look unsightly and a lot of women become very self-conscious about displaying their legs in public as a result.
What causes thread veins?
Doctors suggest that thread veins are caused by the effect of the female hormones on the skin, because men rarely suffer with them, and almost all women do. Some patients just have a few scattered veins and others are absolutely covered in them – we don’t really understand why there is such a wide variation. Certainly, the veins are more visible in patients with pale skin, although dark skinned women do get them as well.
Not all thread veins are the same
As far as treatment is concerned, there is a range of options. Firstly, not all thread veins are the same. A close examination of the veins will reveal that there are different sizes and colors of veins visible on the skin. Thread veins usually range from the larger blue or purple colored ones down to the really tiny red colored veins.
The color difference relates to the size and depth of the veins in the skin. Remember that what you can see by observation is not the vein itself but the blood within the vein. A vein that is deeper in the skin will look bluish whereas a vein close to the surface will have a red color.
In essence, the options for treatment include various types of skin laser or Intense Pulsed light machines, electrically based treatments such as Veinwave or injection sclerotherapy.
The color difference is important for certain types of treatment. Some clinics use lasers to treat thread veins. A laser is amplified and focused light energy. The important point about lasers with respect to thread veins treatment is that the color of the vein is critical when choosing the setting of the laser. Different wavelengths of laser light are absorbed by different colored veins. They way the laser functions is that by absorbing the energy of the light, the blood heats up and clots within the vein, therefore destroying the vein in the process. If the laser is not on the correct setting the blood will not absorb the energy and the treatment doesn’t work. This can be a problem with lasers because often a patient will have lots of different types of thread veins – different sizes, different colors and different depths within the skin and this will require treatment with a lot of different laser settings to get a good result.
In addition, lasers work best in pale skin and can be quite dangerous in darker skin – this is because the pigment in the skin will absorb light energy and prevent it being passed into the vein. Excessive energy applied to the skin can create a skin burn. Laser machines are expensive to buy and maintain, and this cost is eventually passed on to the customer.
Electrical treatments such as Veinwave work by passing a small electric current into the vein through a tiny needle. We have found Veinwave to work quite well on small face veins or on the little red thread veins but not so useful for the larger blue or purple veins on the legs where the current does not seem to work as effectively.
The other option for thread vein treatment is injection sclerotherapy. In this technique a very tiny needle is used to inject a chemical called a sclerosant into the vein to make it block up and eventually disappear. Sclerotherapy has the advantage that it is possible to treat almost all veins in one session as long as the needle can be inserted into the vein itself. The only real downside of sclerotherapy is that really tiny red thread veins can be difficult to hit with the needle and may need to be finished off with a laser or similar machine.
Sclerotherapy is quite a difficult skill to learn to do well and there are few people who are really good at it – this is reason why so much effort is made into developing a laser for thread vein treatment – because anyone can be trained to use a laser but there aren’t many people who are excellent at sclerotherapy! In our opinion, sclerotherapy is still the best option for the majority of thread veins.
Author Bio: Eddie Chaloner is a consultant vascular surgeon at Radiance Health, a specialist clinic in London, which treats Varicose Veins, Thread Veins, and DVT. Eddie is a pioneer in the vascular surgery field having been one of the first surgeons in the UL to use the EVLT method, and the first surgeon in the UK to use the new Clarivein technique.