Thread veins, also known as telangiectasia or spider veins, occur when capillaries (the smallest of blood vessels) become permanently dilated and rupture, spreading blood to other capillaries and leaving a fine red or blue tree-like appearance just under the skin. They can be almost anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face, usually on the cheeks or nose, and the legs.
Unfortunately, according to expert Dr Brian Newman, 55 per cent of us will be affected by thread veins at some point. Many women find that they suddenly appear during pregnancy, possibly due to an increase in the blood coursing through our blood systems, as well as fluctuating hormone levels. Thread veins can occur as a result of changes in the menstrual cycle.
Other causes are trauma damage, for example from surgery, exposure to sun and cold conditions and having a job that involves prolonged standing. Thread veins can be an inherited condition.
Dr Jocelyn Brookes, who specialises in unwanted vein removal at his clinic on Harley Street (varicoseveinsgo.co.uk), warns that sometimes they may be linked to deep varicose veins, so it is always worth getting them checked out by a doctor. The varicose veins must be treated before the thread veins are tackled.
Not really, although are a few dietary changes could help lower your risk of thread veins. Avoiding spicy foods and alcohol should help and nutritional therapist, Henrietta Bailey (puresportsmed.com), advises eating foods rich in vitamin C to strengthen capillary walls. Key foods to go for are citrus fruits, blackcurrants, gooseberries, guava, kiwi, lychees, paw-paw, raspberries, parsley, spinach, green beans, peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, peppers, spring greens and watercress. She also recommends foods rich in vitamin E, such as wheat germ oil, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, avocados and green vegetables. A diet high in fruit and vegetables (particularly brightly coloured ones which are packed with antioxidants) will help to strengthen your capillaries.
Since the only problem with thread veins is their appearance, only treat them if they really bother you. Small areas can be concealed with make-up, try Cover FX Foundation (£37, houseoffraser.co.uk), a product designed to disguise dermatological problems.
The most common treatment for thread veins is microsclerotherapy, where a solution is injected into the veins to stop blood flowing through them (it is the blood in the veins that is visible.) Highly effective and pain-free, microsclerotherapy is widely regarded as an effective treatment if you can bear the exceedingly attractive compression stockings that must be worn for several days after the treatment. However, it is important to note that, occasionally, a small area of brown pigmentation can occur at the site of the injection.
For the smaller and often more cosmetically troublesome veins, thermocoagulation is likely to be the best option. Ideal for vessels that are too small for a microsclerotherapy needle, this technique uses an electric current to create heat that destroys the thread veins without scarring or pigmentation. Dr Brian Newman, who developed the technique, says that the treatment has a 90 per cent success rate for the elimination of facial veins and veins can be cleared often after one session, although two to three sessions are needed for more complicated cases.
To book a consultation for microsclerotherapy and/or thermocoagulation visit drnewmansclinic.co.uk. Initial consultations from £200, treatments from £395.