VEIN HEALTH ISSUES

About Spider Veins

WHAT ARE SPIDER VEINS?

Spider veins are the threadlike red and purple blood vessels that occur in patches on the legs and the face. They are often as delicate as a spider’s web, which is how they get their name. The patches also resemble tiny sunbursts, tree branches, or simple lines.

Spider veins (referred to medically as telangiectasias) and varicose veins aren’t the same. Varicose veins are large and swollen and occur singularly on the legs. Spider veins are much more delicate, tend to develop in clusters anywhere on the body, and are caused by irregular blood flow. They are thought to be induced by hormones and are often associated with pregnancy and menstruation.

Although spider veins generally don’t have symptoms, the veins deeper in the skin that feed them may cause discomfort. Women are more likely than men to develop spider veins.

Exactly what happens in the body that leads to spider veins isn’t certain, but there are several theories on what leads to the abnormal blood flow that causes them. One theory is that spider veins, which occur near the surface of the skin, are fed by underlying varicose veins that are either too small or too deeply embedded to reach the skin’s surface. These underlying veins disrupt circulation, causing spider veins to appear above them. Another theory is that spider veins are actually little arteries that join the network of veins closest to the surface of the skin. Because arteries are under high pressure and surface veins aren’t, the combination of arterial blood and venous blood would cause spider veins to become visible.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

While spider veins don’t usually pose a health threat they do make many feel self conscious. The vascular surgeons at the Advanced Vein Center are continually striving to provide the newest technologies available, thus improving outcomes, and reducing recuperation time and cost.

Sclerotherapy is the most effective noninvasive method of treating medium to large spider veins.

SPIDER VEIN PATTERNS

Spider veins usually take on one of three basic patterns:

  • Thin separate lines
  • Tiny branchlike shapes
  • A true spiderlike shape radiating outward from a dark center

Linear spider veins are commonly seen on the inner knee, whereas the arborizing (branch- or spiderlike) patterns often appear on the outer thigh in the form of a sunburst or cartwheel.

Spider Vein Patterns

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE SPIDER VEINS?

Other than what’s visible, there typically aren’t significant symptoms of spider veins. They may cause minor aching or discomfort, and some people have complained of a heavy feeling in their legs or legs that tire easily.

All these symptoms generally worsen later in the day. Relief comes from walking or elevating the legs. Still, many patients say they have no symptoms at all.

Symptoms associated with spider veins include:

  • Dull, generalized aching (especially after standing for a long time)
  • Throbbing pain
  • Night cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Heaviness in the legs

Complaints may worsen with menstruation and warmer weather.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY SPIDER VEINS?

Women develop spider veins nearly four times as often as men. In fact, about 70 percent of adult women get spider veins at some time in their lives. Some women are at greater risk due to heredity. Others are likely to get spider veins because of lifestyle.

Women who are pregnant or use oral contraceptives are at risk for spider veins. So are women who experience an increase in estrogen, which is believed to weaken vein walls. Overweight women often get spider veins because they’re more likely to develop circulatory problems, diabetes, or heart disease. All these conditions hinder blood flow to the heart.

Standing for long periods of time also increases the risk of getting spider veins. That’s because it’s harder for veins to fight gravity and return blood to the heart. Those who wear high-heeled shoes can stress leg veins by forcing their calf muscles to contract more than usual.

RISK FACTORS INCLUDE:

  • Heredity
  • Occupations that involve a lot of standing
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal influences during pregnancy
  • Use of oral contraceptives
  • Post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy
  • Prolonged sitting with legs crossed
  • History of blood clots
  • Medical conditions such as tumors and constipation that may increase intra-abdominal pressure
  • Externally worn garments such as girdles that may increase intra-abdominal pressure

Other minor factors include topical steroids, trauma or injury to the skin, and exposure to ultraviolet rays.

WHAT DO SPIDER VEINS LOOK LIKE?

Spider Vein Photo

VEIN FACT

Sclerotherapy is the most effective noninvasive method of treating medium to large spider veins.

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