Spider veins occur when veins are unable to push blood back up into the heart, causing blood to pool in the lower extremities and the veins and capillaries in those areas to become distended. The blood vessels appear red, blue, or purple and resemble tree branches or spider webs, hence their name. Most people get spider veins on legs and lower extremities, although spider veins on face are also common.
What causes spider veins is a condition called venous reflux. Veins contain small valves that push blood back up to the heart. When these stop functioning, some of the blood goes back down and crowds the veins. This is the same process that causes varicose veins; spider veins are a mild manifestation of the condition. Unlike varicose veins, spider veins do not cause blood vessels to bulge and do not hurt as much. Since they occur just below the surface of the skin, they need no treatment except for cosmetic purposes.
Most cases of spider veins can be treated with over-the-counter products, although laser treatment and sclerotherapy are available. Clinical procedures, while proven effective, can be risky and carry side effects, which is why most people opt for topical treatments. Spider vein cream works by relaxing the veins under the skin and allowing the blood to flow back up. Some also relieve pain and swelling.
Each product is formulated differently, but most contain Vitamin K, an effective coagulant that has long proved effective for similar problems such as bruises and rosacea. Spider vein creams usually contain Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone). Natural products may contain various extracts such as Japanese pagoda, which stabilizes veins and improves circulation, horse chestnut, which repairs leaks, and grape seed, a well-known antioxidant.
A quick look at the anti-aging aisle will turn up a large selection of spider vein creams, although not all of them are effective. For one thing, some of the ingredients used have no proven effect on vein problems, save for a few experiments. Others may contain lots of synthetic material that may cause allergic reactions on those with sensitive skin, or simply worsen the problem.
Your best bet when looking for spider vein cream is to seek your doctor’s advice. While it’s purely cosmetic at this stage, it’s not uncommon for varicose veins to develop later on, and this can be a cause for concern. Your doctor can recommend safe, clinically tested products to relieve the symptoms, or offer a more long-term solution.