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What are Thread Veins? (Spider Veins)

Thread veins (also called spider veins) of the legs are small veins close to the surface of the skin. The majority of people with leg thread veins actually have underlying vein problems.

What are Thread Veins?

Thread veins on the leg and the face – also commonly referred to as ‘spider veins’, ‘broken veins’, ‘surface veins’ or ‘venous flares’ – are small blood vessels in the most superficial layer of the skin (the dermis) which have become dilated and visible. Generally, the dermis is about 2-3 mm thick, so the deeper-seated the thread vein is in the skin, the less distinct and ‘livid’ it looks, and vice versa. Thread veins are very common, affecting around 80% of adults (evenly split across both sexes) at some point in life and they are usually associated with underlying vein problems.

At The Whiteley Clinic, we specialise in the treatment of thread veins on the legs, whilst our sister practice – Absolute Aesthetics – specialises in treating thread veins on the face.

Thread veins on the legs differ in two key respects from thread veins on the face…

Firstly, thread veins on the face are, obviously, much higher up the body than the heart whereas thread veins on the leg are below the position of the heart, and this crucial difference in position relative to the heart changes how we approach the two distinct types of thread veins.

Gravity alone should make it easy for thread veins on the face to drain blood away down to the heart. So, the very fact they are ‘open’ with blood visible inside them would indicate that the reason for the thread veins to appear is that they probably have some arterial pressure within the vein.

Contrast this with thread veins on the legs which, being below the heart, become visible because they often have a ‘column’ of blood above them, keeping them open and filled when standing or sitting. That’s why, following The Whiteley Protocol®, we always perform a scan to identify the location of that column of blood before attempting to treat the thread veins themselves.

Secondly, the very nature of the surrounding skin on the face and legs is totally different. The skin on the face is always open to the elements and is very resistant to the sun, heat and radiation. It has a great blood supply and heals quickly and well.

However, the skin on the legs is usually hidden away and protected under clothes, making it much more sensitive to heat and radiation. Plus, the skin on the legs does not have as good a blood supply as the face, making the healing process slower and more difficult. This is a key factor in the recovery times from, say, strong laser treatment, which can leave permanent scars.

These two key differences influence the ways that we investigate, diagnose and treat thread veins on the face and legs. Key to our approach is, first, to find out what is going on beneath the skin with a scan. And as specialists in venous problems, we look for treatments beyond simply addressing the veins on the surface (which does not usually give good results in the long term, with thread veins coming back after treatment) or risking skin scarring from utilizing the wrong treatment methods.