Summer's coming and if the thought of shedding trousers and showing your
legs fills you with dread, take heart. There are treatments that can dramatically improve the appearance of unsightly thread veins.
What are thread veins? Thread veins are tiny blood vessels which run close to the surface of
the skin and look like fine red, or sometimes purple, wiggly lines. They're also sometimes called 'spider veins' or 'broken veins', although the veins aren't infact broken but only slightly enlarged. The medical term for them is telangiectasia.
What causes them? Usually there's no obvious cause. Thread veins tend to develop as we age and our skin and blood vessels become less elastic. Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and the menopause are thought to provoke their development - the reason why women are more prone to them than men.
You can also inherit a family tendency to the problem. Other causes include too much sunbathing, exposure to wind or extreme temperatures, cortico-steroid medicines and radiotherapy. Jobs that involve prolonged standing may aggravate the condition, but they don't actually cause it. Although you may not like the look of them, thread veins aren't dangerous, but they tend to become larger and increase in number over time.
How successful is it? You need to have realistic expectations. 'Some thread veins can be quite difficult to treat because they don't always run obligingly parallel to the skin surface, 'Some are like big dippers they go up and down and a laser light doesn't always reach deeply enough to destroy them.' Veins in the lower part of the leg, particularly the ankle area, are more difficult to treat than those on the thighs. It's not normally possible to get rid of all the veins, but around 90 per cent clearance is common.
Are thread veins related to varicose veins? They are part of the same spectrum of problems caused by blood pressure in the superficial veins of the legs being too high (see box below). If you have varicose veins you are more likely to have thread veins too, but the reverse isn't true, having thread veins doesn't predispose you to varicose veins. 'In women with big varicose veins there's no point treating thread veins until the varicose veins have been sorted out. 'They need doing first otherwise the treatment for thread veins won't work.'
What about treatment for broken veins on the face? IPL Lasers can treat the very fine veins that can appear on the nose, cheeks and chin and it's usually very successful. Often thread veins on the face are part of a condition called rosacea.