Spider veins—those little purple clusters that show up just under the surface of the skin—are commonly associated with the aging process. However, Thomas E. Eidson, DO, says spider veins can appear as early as your teenage years. For many, they surface in your 20s to 40s and become more visible as you age. Dr. Brandon Camp notes that spider veins are not to be confused with varicose veins, which are "more likely to cause symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, such as pain, aches, or a heavy feeling in the legs."
Meet the Expert
- Thomas E Eidson, DO, is a double board–certified physician in family medicine and a venous disease specialist.
- Brandon Camp, MD, is a double board-certified dermatologist with a practice based in New York City.
While not usually a cause for concern (though in rare cases they might be a sign of underlying health troubles), spider veins can surely be a nuisance. Which is why we asked Eidson and Camp how to get rid of them or, at least, prevent them from getting worse. In addition to age, genetics play a part in the occurrence of spider veins and varicose veins. For this reason, Camp notes that "not all spider veins are preventable." Pregnancy, sun damage, sedentary habits, and injury can also exacerbate their appearance.
Since none of us are exempt from these unwelcome discolorations, keep reading for Eidson and Camp's tips on how to get rid of spider veins.
Take Diosmin Supplements
Spider veins are the result of little valves within the vein becoming weak or damaged, according to Eidson. To support capillary permeability, elasticity, and venous tone, he recommends taking diosmin supplements—but not without talking to your doctor first, of course. "Diosmin is not FDA approved, so patients should use it with caution," adds Camp.
Wear Compression Socks
Keeping the venous pressure normal or reduced can prevent the formation of spider veins or decrease their appearance, says Eidson. In order to do just that, he and Camp both suggest wearing compression socks to support the normal function of leg veins and prevent increased venous pressure.
"Compression stockings place constant pressure around the legs to encourage blood flow back to the heart," says Camp. You can wear them throughout the day, and take them off once you return home or when you go to bed. They are also commonly used after an in-office treatment for spider veins to promote the best possible results and minimize adverse side effects, "such as discoloration, formation of new vessels, and recurrence."
Avoid Staying in One Position for Too Long
Ever get numb in your legs and lower back after sitting on the couch for one too many hours of Netflix? Remaining stagnant in one position—sitting or standing—for too long can exacerbate the effects of spider veins by causing blood to settle instead of flowing properly, according to Camp. "Take a quick break every 30 minutes or so to move around and work the pumping action of the leg muscles."
If you work at a desk, considering switching between a sitting and standing position several times throughout the day to try to keep the blood in your legs flowing.
Try Horse Chestnut Extract
According to Eidson, horse chestnut seed contains the active compound called aescin, which is believed to support the structures of veins and valves. It could possibly prevent spider veins from forming in the first place. Add a full squeeze of the dropper into two ounces of water and drink two to three times a day in between meals.
According to a 2012 Cochrane report, horse chestnut seed extract might be a effective short-term treatment for venous insufficiency; however, "larger studies are needed to confirm its efficacy," adds Camp. Again, it's important that you notify your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.
Get Some Exercise
For the same reasons, Camp suggests getting regular exercise. "In much the same way, regular physical activity strengthens the pumping action of the muscles in the legs." It doesn't so much matter what form of exercise you choose, so find something you enjoy—be it running, walking, yoga, CrossFit, etc.—and stick with it a few times a week.
Eidson and Camp conclude that the only way to completely get rid of spider veins is with sclerotherapy injections. While the procedure can have side effects—namely inflammation and, occasionally, blood clots—it is one of the only known ways to make spider veins disappear. But what is sclerotherapy? The in-office procedure is an injection that causes the vessels to collapse on themselves. The body then dissolves and absorbs the vessels, and your spider veins are no more.
"During the procedure, a chemical is injected into the vein, which causes it to seal shut and the vein turns into scar tissue and eventually fades," says Camp. Other in-office treatments, such as lasers and endovenous ablation, are less commonly used.
Elevate Your Legs
Keeping your legs propped up is another good preventative tip. "Elevating your legs while working or placing a pillow underneath them at night while sleeping, works against gravitational forces and helps blood return," notes Camp. This is especially good advice if your job involves a lot of time spent sitting at the computer.
Use Body Makeup If the Appearance Bothers You
OK, this one isn't a treatment per se, but if you are self-conscious about spider veins, might we suggest body makeup to help cover the purple clusters? It's probably more of a special occasion solution, best used in conjunction with Eidson and Camp's longer-term tips. "In a pinch, body makeup can be used to make spider veins less visible," says Camp. He recommends the brand Dermablend, which specializes in body makeup for skin conditions like vitiligo and varicose veins.
This formula from St. Tropez gives skin a lustrous glow without looking like heavy makeup. Camp adds that you should set your body makeup with powder to avoid transferring the pigment to fabrics. Most formulas should wash off easily with soap and water.
Cleveland Clinic. Varicose & spider veins. Updated July 19, 2019.
Pittler MH, Ernst E. Horse chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;11(11):CD003230. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003230.pub4
Schwartz L, Maxwell H. Sclerotherapy for lower limb telangiectasias. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;2011(12):CD008826. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008826.pub2