What The Visible Veins On Your Legs Reveal About Your Health and How To Get Rid Of Them
With Summer in the Hamptons in full swing, everyone’s legs are out on display. While many proudly show off their legs, some women are still afraid to show their legs in shorts because of spider veins. I had the chance to sit down with renowned NJ Cardiologist Dr. Anuj Shah, Founder of Apex Heart and Vascular, to learn more about spider veins and how to get rid of them. Dr. Shah runs the Vein Restoration Clinic – a branch of Apex Heart and Vascular that is a specialized center the treatment of varicose veins or spider veins.
As the director of Vein Restoration clinic, Dr. Shah has had tremendous success in spider vein treatment for symptomatic reasons or cosmetic purposes. As an expert in varicose veins, he does over 1,000 treatments per year, in addition to hundreds of sclerotherapy treatments.
Here is what he had to say on the inside scoop on spider vein treatment:
Stacy: What is a spider vein and varicose vein?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Spider veins are small, dilated blood vessels that typically occur just under the surface of the skin. They may appear anywhere on the body but are commonly found on the legs and face. Most are red or blue and have a branching pattern similar to a spider’s web.
Varicose veins are blood vessels that have become enlarged and twisted. Like spider veins, they appear near the skin’s surface. However, they tend to be larger and bulge outward. Most are found in the legs and are often associated with symptoms like leg pain, cramps, itchy skin, restless legs, swelling and burning like symptoms. It can also lead to minor bleeding from broken veins.
Stacy: Are spider veins harmful to your health?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Spider veins are not likely to be harmful to your health. Most patients with the condition do not have any symptoms. However, spider veins can be unsightly and many patients seek treatment for cosmetic reasons. In some cases, spider veins are the early signs of underlying ‘venous insufficiency’ where the valves inside the veins are not competent and these people are at risk of developing larger varicose veins down the road.
How do you get rid of spider veins?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Most cases of spider veins do not require any treatment. Compression stockings may be helpful. More advanced techniques such as sclerotherapy (simple injection of a sclerosing agent) or laser treatment can clear the skin of spider veins.
Treatment of symptomatic venous insufficiency and large varicose veins can vary and usually focuses on fixing the underlying valves with ablation therapy, glue therapy or foam sclerotherapy. In Europe, there is now a non-invasive way of fixing the varicose veins by using a focused beam of external ultrasound delivering energy enabling varicose veins to be treated without surgery. This procedure is still not approved for use in the USA.
Stacy: What are the costs associated with getting rid of spider veins?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Compression stockings are typically inexpensive and readily available at pharmacies. A pair usually costs between $20-40.
The average cost of a sclerotherapy session varies depending on the location and the expertise of the center. Typically one session is approximately anywhere from 300 to 400 dollars at most centers in the USA. Many patients require multiple treatment sessions for desired results. Laser treatments are more expensive and typically cost approximately 400 to 500 dollars at most centers in the USA. Since spider vein treatments are usually cosmetic and health insurance rarely covers the cost. Insurance companies usually do cover treatment of symptomatic venous insufficiency and large varicose veins.
Stacy: Is it better to get rid of spider veins in the summer or winter?
Dr. Anuj Shah: The spider vein procedures are very simple and it does not have much of a recovery period. Hence, it is easy to go through them any time of the year. Having said that, winter may be a slightly better time to undergo spider vein treatment. Compression stockings typically need to be worn after treatment, and most patients find it more comfortable to wear these in colder months. Additionally, limited sun exposure during the winter months can reduce the chances of sun associated skin damage.
Stacy: Do you strip them? How do you avoid spider veins?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Spider veins are not stripped. Treatment techniques involve damaging the veins with medication or lasers. This allows the body to reabsorb the remaining tissues naturally. It is difficult to avoid spider veins completely if there is genetic predisposition, but avoiding prolonged standing and wearing compression stockings can be helpful.
Stacy: What is sclerotherapy and do you suggest it?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Sclerotherapy involves directly injecting spider veins with medication. This causes the veins to collapse and harden. Once collapsed, the body absorbs the damaged vein over time. Many patients require multiple injections over several weeks to adequately treat spider veins. There may be some pain or bruising at the injection sites.
Like all medical procedures, sclerotherapy has risks. Possible complications include blood clots and allergic reactions. However, these are extremely rare and most patients tolerate sclerotherapy very well. Treatment is successful in a very high percentage of cases and I recommend sclerotherapy to patients wishing to eliminate spider veins.
Stacy: Is there any preventative thing women can do to avoid getting them and to prevent them from re emerging?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Sclerotherapy may also help prevent spider veins from re-emerging. The injection can reach deep veins which feed the smaller veins that cause spider veins to form. Compression stockings may also reduce the chances of developing spider veins.
Many risk factors for spider veins can be modified. These include obesity, pregnancy, birth control medications, sun exposure, and prolonged sitting or standing. Unfortunately, age and gender also increase the chances of developing spider veins and cannot be changed.
Stacy: Are spider veins hereditary?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Spider veins are very likely to be hereditary. One study suggested that 90% of patients with spider veins have a family history of the condition. However, spider veins can still develop even without family history.
Stacy: If I have spider veins – how do I get rid of them?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Sclerotherapy is the gold-standard treatment for spider veins. As mentioned above, the technique may also prevent new spider veins from forming. Laser treatments can also lead to the removal of unwanted spider veins.
Stacy: Who is the best person to treat these veins? A dermatologist? A plastic surgeon? A cardiologist?
Dr. Anuj Shah: Many types of physicians are qualified to treat spider veins. Anyone who has had a large experience taking care of vascular procedures should be the ideal provider. Small spider veins are normally treated in office based procedures by general practitioners, cardiologists, vascular surgeons, dermatologists and plastic surgeons. However, large varicose veins may require more invasive techniques that involve catheters. These are best done by physicians who regularly operate on blood vessels, such as interventional cardiologists or vascular surgeons.
Stacy: How can our readers learn more about you?
Dr. Anuj Shah: We provide a full spectrum of care including initial complimentary consultation, vein mapping ultrasound, conservative therapy and various varicose vein procedures including laser and radio frequency ablation catheters, foam and regular sclerotherapy, vein glue, ClariVein and more. We have multiple locations in North Jersey and have performed thousands of procedures. If you would like to schedule a consultation for spider vein treatment, please visit http://www.apexheartandvascular.com
About Dr. Anuj Shah
Dr. Anuj R Shah is a Cardiovascular Disease Specialist and the Founder and director of Apex Heart and Vascular Care. He holds seven board certifications in Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology. Dr. Shah graduated from one of the top universities in India, Gujarat University, in 2003 with six gold medals and honors. He completed a residency and fellowship at University of Connecticut and published more than 50 articles and abstracts in peer-reviewed journals. He was trained in complex cardiac and vascular cases at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Dr. Shah won The Young Investigator Award from American Society of Nuclear Cardiology and has spoken at several national cardiology conferences on cardiogenic shock. Dr. Shah has held leadership positions including Director of Vascular Interventions at Good Samaritan Hospital and Bon Secours Hospital in NY. He also served as the Assistant Professor of Medicine at The Mount Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Shah currently has hospital privileges and performs interventional procedures at The Hackensack University Medical Center, St. Mary’s Medical Center, St. Michaels Medical Center, and Englewood Hospital. He specializes in treatment of circulatory disease, treatment of varicose veins, swelling of the legs, and venous ulcers. Dr. Shah holds seven board certifications in Coronary and peripheral vascular interventions, Level II Echocardiography, Level II Nuclear Cardiology, Level II Vascular Ultrasound Interpretation, Level II Coronary CT Angiography and ABI/PVR Analysis. Dr. Shah is the President of Bergen Indian Medical Association. Dr. Shah has been named a “Top Physician” in the 2015 edition of Leading Physician of the World and has been among the “Top Doctors of New Jersey” since 2015. He was recently featured on Healthline on Artificial Intelligence and AFIB. For more information on Dr. Shah, visit http://www.apexheartandvascular.com