The skin around the eyes has a series of small blood vessels called periorbital veins. Normally, these veins are invisible. However, if they become swollen, they can appear as fine red vessels or larger green veins. If severe enough, these spider or reticular veins can give you the appearance of dark circles under your eyes.
There are several therapies and treatments to reduce the appearance of veins around the eyes. The most common ones are intense pulsed light and laser therapies, although other treatments are also available.
Lasers and Intense Pulsed Light Treatments
Pulsed dye lasers (PDL) are commonly used to treat spider and reticular veins around the eyes. However, other types of lasers and intense pulsed light (IPL) sources may also be effective.
Lasers use light of one wavelength (color). Those that use longer wavelengths are better for blood vessels that are deeper in the skin. With some devices, the laser spot size and shape can be adjusted to better fit the vein being targeted.
All of these therapies use focused light to heat the veins, which causes them to collapse. When this happens, blood will naturally flow to other healthier veins. Over time, the collapsed veins fade away.
Potential Side Effects of Laser Eye Vein Treatment
After treatment with PDL, your skin may develop purple spots (purpura). These are usually temporary. These spots may be less likely to occur with other types of laser and IPL therapies.
These treatments have some risks, such as:
- Discoloration of the skin
- Blisters or ulcers
- Burns or scarring
Because lasers and IPL are powerful sources of light, they can potentially damage the eyes. To protect your eyes, you doctor will ask you to wear protective eyewear during the treatment.
Causes of Visible Veins Around Your Eyes
Spider and reticular veins are similar to varicose veins that occur in the legs. They are caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins, which leads to blood pooling in the vein.
These veins can appear around the eyes on their own, or as a result of other factors, including:
- Damage caused by sunlight
- Diseases such as rosacea, connective tissue problems or liver disease
- Long-term treatment with corticosteroid hormones
- Family history of certain types of spider veins
Spider and reticular veins around the eyes will not affect your health, but their appearance can be stressful.
Other Vein Treatments
While laser and IPL therapies are the most common treatments for spider or reticular veins around the eyes, other treatments are available, including:
- Sclerotherapy: Medication is injected into the veins to cause them to collapse. Over time, they will fade away. This treatment works better with larger veins.
- Electrocautery: The vein is heated with a special handheld device. This causes the vein to collapse, and over time it will disappear.
- Radiofrequency (RF) ablation: A thin wire inserted into the vein generates heat. This forms scar tissue that closes off the vein.
Many of these therapies are also used to treat veins on other parts of the body, including the legs. As with vein treatments on the legs, it may take several sessions before the visible veins around the eyes are gone. These treatments also will not prevent new spider or reticular veins from forming. Your vein specialist can decide which treatment is best for your vein condition.
Updated Aug. 23, 2017