Varicose veins and spider veins can be both unsightly and painful, leading many sufferers in search of relief. Topical antidotes for these visible veins abound at drugstores and on the Internet, promising to eliminate the veins and restore legs’ youthful appearance.
Could it really be as simple as slathering the right ointment on our skin to eliminate this unattractive vein condition? Unfortunately the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” generally applies to topical treatments for spider and varicose veins.
The truth behind topical and at-home treatments for varicose veins
There is no shortage of topical varicose vein treatments promising to eliminate the appearance of the veins and even reduce swelling and pain while increasing circulation in the legs. Some of the most common ingredients found in these creams include:
This nutrient has been used to reduce the appearance of bruising and rosacea. Creams containing vitamin K may also be effective in diminishing the appearance of spider veins, although the topical solutions will have to be used over and over again to maintain the camouflage effect.
This herb has long been linked to the reduction of inflammation and the strengthening of vessel walls. Like vitamin K solutions, horse chestnut may successfully disguise the appearance of spider veins due to its anti-inflammatory properties. However, like vitamin K, this herb will not provide long-term relief from spider or varicose veins.
This herb has properties resembling steroids, which may reduce swelling and inflammation. Butcher’s broom is also thought to strengthen and tone veins. As a topical solution, however, butcher’s broom will be no more effective than its counterparts listed above.
The scientific evidence linking these ingredients to healthier vessels is lacking at this time. While topical solutions may help temporarily reduce the appearance of spider and varicose veins, they are not able to get beneath the surface of the skin where the vein condition develops.
Causes of spider and varicose veins
Spider veins tend to appear in a network on the legs, face or abdomen. There are many possible causes of spider veins, including heredity, trauma to the skin, sun exposure and hormonal fluctuations. Because these vessels tend to be more superficial, topical ointments may help reduce their appearance for a time. However, the veins are still present under the skin’s surface and will continue to appear.
The cause of varicose veins is even more complex. These swollen vessels begin inside the vein, where tiny valves keep blood flowing in a single direction. Over time, the valves can become damaged or wear out, allowing blood to pool inside the vein. This can lead to swelling and varicosity, evidenced by those flesh-colored bulging ropes that tend to twist up the lower leg.
Treat your vein problem beneath the surface for more effective treatment
Because topical treatments do not penetrate the skin at any significant depth, they are unable to address spider and varicose veins at their source. The only way to effectively treat these vessels is to get rid of them entirely, something topical solutions simply cannot do. Fortunately, there are effective, minimally-invasive vein treatments available today that can get to the source of the veins and eliminate them, addressing the vein disorder once and for all.
Another issue with topical treatments is that while they may relieve the appearance of varicose veins, they will not do much to relieve painful symptoms that often accompany them.
Common symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Pain and aching in the legs
- Swelling of the lower legs, ankles, and feet
- Heaviness or leg fatigue at the end of the day
- Restless legs or leg cramping at night
- Skin itching or burning around the vein
While there are ways to temporarily alleviate these symptoms, such as elevating your legs or wearing compression stockings, the symptoms are likely to return. The good news is that vein treatment that eliminates the veins will also eliminate the symptoms—often as soon as the vein procedure is completed.
Minimally invasive vein treatments we recommend
While topical treatments make plenty of promises about what they will do for your spider and varicose veins, these products can fail to deliver in most cases. Instead, choose a minimally invasive treatment that will get to the underlying cause of the vein condition and eliminate your unsightly, uncomfortable veins for good. Below we discuss our minimally invasive treatments for eliminating both spider and varicose veins.
This injectable treatment is commonly used to address spider veins and smaller varicose veins. If a vein is located further beneath the skin’s surface, ultrasound imaging may be used to locate the vein and make the injections. Injections of a special solution are placed directly into the vessel, sealing the vein shut so it collapses. Blood is naturally rerouted to healthy veins in the area. Sclerotherapy can be performed in the doctor’s office without any type of anesthesia. It takes just a few minutes to complete, and patients are able to return to regular activities as soon as treatment is over.
Endovenous Laser Therapy (or ELT)
ELT is an effective method for eliminating visible, painful varicose veins. In this procedure, laser energy is delivered directly into the varicose vein, which heats the vessel walls and seals it closed. The laser energy is delivered via a narrow fiber that is inserted into the vein using a micro-incision. The incision is too small to require sutures and leaves no visible scarring afterward. The treated vessel is reabsorbed by the body over time, while blood is rerouted to healthy veins nearby. This procedure is performed in the doctor’s office using local anesthesia and requires no downtime.
Radiofrequency Ablation (or RFA)
Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat large vein disease and large varicose veins on your legs. These veins are usually below the surface and not able to be seen without ultrasound. It is performed by your doctor inserting a small catheter into the diseased vein. Through this catheter, heat is delivered to collapse the vein.
This approach to varicose vein treatment is also referred to as endovenous adhesive ablation. VenaSeal is performed by your doctor using a small catheter to put medical adhesive into your damaged vein to close that vein. This helps to redirect blood to healthy veins.
This treatment works best for removing varicose veins near the surface of your skin. Phlebectomy is performed by your doctor making a number of small punctures in your skin, and through those punctures, removing the damaged vein. This approach to vein treatment typically occurs without the need for stitches, and is often done with ELVA or radiofrequency ablation.
Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Yan Katsnelson is a philanthropist, business owner, and highly skilled cardiac surgeon. He is the Founder and CEO of USA Vein Clinics, which is part of USA Clinics Group, the parent company of USA Fibroid Centers, USA Vascular Centers, and USA Oncology Centers, with more than 100 facilities nationwide. Dr. Yan has established himself as a strong advocate for accessibility and affordability of the most advanced medical care close to home. His mission is to create a positive experience for each patient with compassionate, personalized, and expert care.