Spider and varicose veins can develop after childbirth, after taking certain medications, or they may be an inherited family trait. They can also develop because of hormone changes, weight gain, or prolonged sitting or standing, Spider and varicose veins can be embarrassing—they make many people self-conscious about wearing sports clothes, shorts, or summer tops. And if you have spider veins on your face, even a good makeup concealer won’t always cover the veins completely.


Spider veins are cherry red in color and usually appear on the legs, but can occur on the arms, nose, and face. They are thin and thread-like, usually 1-2 mm in diameter, and generally appear in a linear pattern, a branch-like pattern, or a spider pattern. Spider veins—and sometimes larger, ropey veins or blue-colored varicose veins—can be treated with sclerotherapy.

Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution called Tetradeca Sulfate into a vein using a very fine needle. The injections cause the vein to collapse and disappear. Generally, an injection is necessary for each inch-long segment of the vein. Sclerotherapy is performed on an outpatient basis, and each treatment usually takes 15 minutes to an hour. Multiple treatments are often necessary to completely collapse the veins. The more veins you want to treat, the more treatments you will need.

After each treatment, you may feel some itching and cramping in the treated area. Your doctor or nurse may advise you to wear a prescription-grade medical compression garment after treatment to help the veins collapse and to reduce the risk of blood clots, a risk that increases for larger vessels. There may be bruising, but it will usually fade in a few weeks. Other side effects may include hemosiderin staining or ulcerations. Known side effects would be injection sites appearing lumpy or sore.

Sclerotherapy is an effective treatment for spider veins and varicose veins, but some vessels may still persist after treatment. It’s also important to understand that sclerotherapy can treat veins that are already visible, but it will not prevent new veins from becoming visible. Talk to your nurse or doctor about your expectations during your consultation.