What are thread veins?

Thread veins – often referred to as spider veins - are minuscule yet prominent veins found slightly under the skin’s surface. These veins tend to branch out into a spider-like pattern, hence their name.

Thread veins may occur anywhere on the body, but these are most common on the face and legs. These veins are a common issue reported to affect approximately 80% of all adults at some stage of their lives.

It is possible to treat thread veins via straightforward and routine procedures.

What are thread veins?

Image Credit: Veincentre

Symptoms of thread veins

Thread veins do not typically cause any notable symptoms, but they may be regarded as aesthetically displeasing, prompting people to look for treatment options to improve their cosmetic appearance.

On occasion, patients may experience specific symptoms, such as cramping, burning or itching, but these symptoms are more widely linked to the presence of varicose veins.

The appearance and prominence of thread veins on the skin depend on a number of factors, including a vein’s proximity to the skin surface and the flow of blood within the vein.

Thread veins may vary in colour. While these typically appear to be pink or red, they can look darker – often blue or purple – in instances where they are larger.

The depth of a thread vein in relation to the surface of the skin will also affect how visibly deep its colour will look - the deeper the vein, the less distinct and vivid its appearance will be and vice versa.

It should be noted that thread veins occasionally occur as single short, straight veins. These do not resemble the traditional spider’s web pattern in every case.

Causes of thread veins

It is often difficult or even impossible to determine the causes of thread veins, but much like varicose veins, there is a degree of genetic predisposition to the condition. Patterns have emerged and been observed from parents to children and also among siblings.

Other risk factors may include oestrogen treatment, pregnancy, topical steroid use, local skin trauma and extended periods of standing.1 Thread veins on the legs may also signify an underlying venous condition.

Diagnosing thread veins

As thread veins are primarily cosmetic in nature, these can be diagnosed via a visual examination of the affected area.

However, it is impossible to determine the cause of an instance of thread veins via visual examination alone, so Veincentre ensures that patients presenting with thread veins on their legs consistently undergo duplex ultrasound. This is done at an initial consultation in order to rule out any instances of underlying venous disease.

This is important because failure to recognise and effectively treat the underlying venous disease can result in treatment failures or the early recurrence of thread veins.

Prevention of thread veins

Thread veins are a common issue and become more prevalent with age. While there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of thread veins occurring, it is possible to improve circulation to the legs by maintaining a healthy weight and taking regular exercise.

People with sedentary jobs are advised to move around regularly or periodically stretch their legs to ensure optimal blood flow and circulation. It has also been shown that a history of smoking and excess alcohol consumption is linked to thread veins being present on the face.

Compression stockings offer some benefit in terms of preventing frequently associated symptoms such as burning, itching or cramps.

Treatment of thread veins

Where thread veins occur on the surface of the legs, these can be effectively treated using microsclerotherapy – a technique which Veincentre has used since 2003 with excellent results. This procedure is minimally invasive – patients can walk in, receive treatment and walk out.

Best treatment for thread veins on the face

Thread veins on the face require a different approach to those on the legs – thread veins on the face do not require scanning, and these veins tend to respond best to thermocoagulation (also known as Veinwave™).

Thermocoagulation makes use of a microscopic needle to penetrate the skin. This is done slightly over the thread vein to close this off by administering heat. Patients tend to feel a subtle pricking sensation as the needle is inserted and the energy is delivered.

It may be necessary to undertake a number of treatment sessions. Treated veins disappear instantly after a session, allowing the patient to return to normal activities without restrictions.

It is important to note that microsclerotherapy should not be used to treat facial thread veins.

The video below features a demonstration of thermocoagulation (Veinwave™). The Veinlite video provides a means of visualising these minuscule veins while injecting them with microsclerotherapy – this technique is not a treatment in itself.

New VeinWave Procedure

Video Credit: Veincentre


  1. Schwartz L, Maxwell H. Sclerotherapy for lower limb telangiectasias. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD008826. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008826.pub2. Accessed 27 August 2021.

About Veincentre

Veincentre are the UK’s leading varicose veins specialists using Gold Standard, minimally invasive techniques, with 15 clinics nationwide.

At Veincentre, we provide the most effective, proven treatment and the highest quality of care that is accessible to everyone. We treat the cause, not just the symptoms! All our treatments are minimally invasive – walk-in, walk-out, require no general anaesthetic, no surgery and no time off work.

The most important aspect of care for any condition is the ability and attitude of the team of doctors and nurses looking after you. We have headhunted some of the most experienced and respected vein specialists in the UK. By choosing Veincentre, you can be assured that discomfort will be minimised, outcomes will be optimised, and you will be looked after by a team who really care for you

From your initial point of contact you will be communicating with our patient advisers, who only deal with patients who suffer from varicose veins so are all highly experienced and can confidently answer all of your queries or provide any advice.

Start your journey to healthy veins and happy legs…

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Last updated: Jan 6, 2022 at 4:01 AM


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