Thread Veins

Thread veins are tiny engorged veins, visible on the skin surface. They are often unsightly and can occur as little clusters or individual veins. They are also known as ‘flare veins’, broken veins’ or ‘spider veins’. Medically they are ‘telangiectasia’.

Thread veins are extremely common, up to 50% of women below 30y have thread veins, rising to 70% of women over the age of 70y. About 10% of men have them too. Thread veins can appear on the face or body but the legs are by far the commonest site. Some people simply live with them, but others, in particular women, find them deeply distressing. 

Thread veins are caused by a weakness of the vein wall, often hormonally driven, worsening with age, with thread veins becoming more apparent post pregnancy and during the menopause. Some thread veins are associated with underlying varicose veins; as a vascular surgeon, whenever I examine a patient with thread veins, the presence of underlying varicose vein disease will be investigated. This is important as treatments are not as effective and recurrence rates after treatment are higher with the presence of underlying untreated venous disease.

Whilst thread veins are found in all skin varieties, from black skin types to very pale skin, there can be a genetic component with prominent thread veins more common in some families.

Unless there are underlying varicose veins, there are no preventable measures to stop thread veins appearing. Some people talk about not crossing their legs, or avoiding hot baths and saunas or wearing tight clothes but none of these bear any relation to the onset of thread veins!

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