Embarrassing spider veins are on the mind of pretty much everyone these days. These are the tiny network of veins that are clustered on the surface of the legs and have the appearance of spider webs. They tend to occur mostly on the legs, including the thighs and ankles, however facial and chest veins (including the breasts) are also common. No one is immune to the development of spider veins, however there is a predominance in patients with a family history of vein disease.
So are there reliable treatment options for spider veins? What natural remedies are there? In this article, we review our patients’ most FAQ.
Why do spider veins occur?
Spider veins usually develop in a network that might resemble a spider’s web (hence the name). They may be red or blue and affect a variable amount of area that can be quite extensive in some cases. The most common areas to find spider veins are on the leg, particularly on the thighs and back of the legs.
The most common reasons for developing spider veins are:
- Family history is the most important factor. Studies show that predisposition to leaky veins is inherited and can cause both varicose and spider veins
- Venous insufficiency
- Hormonal fluctuations (particularly during and after pregnancy)
- Increased amounts of time standing or sitting in one position
- Excessive sun exposure
- Skin trauma
Options in Natural Spider Vein Remedies
We are not surprised that many patients of ours have considered or even used natural remedies. This is a popular choice for individuals who are fascinated by the body’s ability to heal itself and want to avoid medical treatments. The available options are readily obtained without a physician’s prescription and can be self-administered. The cost of healthcare may be one reason patients seek out options on their own. Some of the most commonly used home remedies for spider veins include:
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is thought to improve blood circulation and reduce the formation of spider and varicose veins through this mechanism. Users will apply apple cider vinegar directly to the skin, however, due to its acidic nature, this can cause skin irritation. Caution is advised for patients with sensitive skin. There is no scientific data to back up claims about reduced formation of spider or varicose veins with this treatment.
Supplements are another popular remedy for spider veins and multiple options are touted. In particular, horse chestnut has been used for anti-inflammatory effects and associated with decreased swelling, itching and discomfort due to varicose veins. However, it’s unlikely you will notice any cosmetic differences with horse chestnut extract.
Essential oils are another natural remedy consideration for a wide range of health conditions, including spider and varicose veins. Popular choices include:
- Sea pine
- Horse chestnut
Essential oils are derived from plants, including flowers, herbs, or trees. The dosages are not well studied and should be used with testing small, inconspicuous areas first.
In vein disease, we are most interested in the anti-inflammatory effect of CBD as well as the effect it is postulated to have on circulation. In chronic pain, researchers have compiled the results of multiple systematic reviews covering numerous small studies. Their research concluded that there is evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults. The two most common ways to use CBD for vein disease treatment are ingested forms and applied oils. The effective or recommended doses are not well documented. Thus, in using CBD, it is best to start low and work up to the minimally effective dose. Caution should be taken when using other pharmaceuticals as CBD can impact the metabolism of other prescribed medications.
Final Verdict on Natural Remedies?
Despite their popularity, there are only anecdotal reports of effectiveness. Scientific data is lacking and are often under-sized to determine any meaningful effect. The effective doses and formulations of natural remedies are even less well understood. The available medications are unregulated and do not have a uniform ingredient list for direct comparison. As such, it’s important to consider these treatments against the risks of side effects and other drug interactions with your vein specialist.
When Natural Treatments Don’t Work
We are not surprised by the choice of many patients to try natural remedies as a first option. However, the effectiveness can be minimal and short-lasting due to the very nature and cause of spider veins. Our goal at the Princeton Vascular Center is to fully evaluate your condition and develop a comprehensive plan to treat and prevent future spider veins. This includes working with our patients to enhance natural remedies with lifestyle modifications and when appropriate, medical treatments such as sclerotherapy and minimally-invasive treatments for venous insufficiency. Modern treatments for venous insufficiency are incredibly effective and permanent in symptom relief when performed in the right hands. In the presence of symptoms, treatments for venous insufficiency are also covered by most insurances including Medicare.