The first thing to remember about thread veins is that they are generally completely harmless. However, because of where they tend to appear on the face and legs, people can become extremely self-conscious about thread veins and want to get rid of them.
Simply tiny capillaries with very thin, elastic walls that expand and contract as oxygen and nutrients pass through them, they can sometimes lose their ability to return to the original size after expanding, causing them to break, at which point they become visible on the surface of the skin.
Appearing as fine red, blue, or purple veins, they are also called spider veins because of their appearance.
More common in women over the age of 50, the technical name for thread veins is telangiectasia which can affect various parts of the body, but particularly the face.
This is because besides the capillaries’ natural expansion and contraction, sun exposure damages the stretchy collagen in the skin, leaving it thinner and more fragile which leaves the veins more prone to injury.
They can also be more likely to occur in people who suffer from rosacea as again, the inflammatory nature of the condition causes the blood vessels to dilate which over time can cause permanent damage.
In addition, with all the will in the world, people do tend to prod and squeeze their skin which puts additional strain on the tiny capillaries.
Moving from cold to warm temperatures can also contribute – imagine coming into a very warm centrally heated house after being outside in bitter cold. Inevitably this will cause a more rapid expansion and contraction of the capillaries, again putting them under pressure, while washing or bathing in over-hot water will have the same effect.
And as with many other things, thread veins can be hereditary, or at least the chances of someone developing them is likely to increase if they run in the family.
Although thread veins can be extremely irritating, there are ways to help minimise the risk of developing them such as avoiding temperature extremes, or moderating alcohol consumption as it can cause the capillaries to dilate quickly.
Likewise, the standard advice for looking after skin in general – exercise to improve circulation, well balanced nutrition from a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables, natural fats, quality protein, wholegrains, and nuts – will help protect the skin, and of course, a regular skin care regime including daily sun protection is key.
Nevertheless, for someone who is not happy at the prospect of living with visible thread veins there is an easy, safe non-surgical treatment available.
IPL laser therapy is a popular and effective process that uses highly focused pulses of intense light to target the veins so that they are broken down and reabsorbed with no damage to the surrounding tissue. The pulse feels a bit like being pinged with a rubber band, but the sensation passes almost instantly. For a little while afterwards skin can have temporary redness, but this soon passes.
A few sessions from an expert professional therapist at a reputable aesthetic clinic may be required for stubborn thread veins but they usually disappear after treatment.