Comprehensive Guide to Spider Veins
Spider veins are often confused with varicose veins, but there are some key differences. While some treatments are approved for both spider and varicose veins, it is important to understand which type of vein condition you suffer from so that you can treat the condition appropriately. The easiest way to make the determination is to answer a few questions:
- Are the affected veins large, swollen, twisted and protruding from your skin? Or are they smaller and thinner?
- How close to the surface skin are the veins?
- What color are the veins?
Large, swollen veins that appear twisted or look like cords coming out of your skin are varicose veins. Spider veins are closer to the surface of your skin and are much smaller and shorter. These veins look like the thin legs of a spider, which is where they get their popular name. Both types of veins can appear red or blue due to the blood pooling inside, but in some cases, varicose veins can appear without this discoloration.
Spider veins can appear on any area of the body, but they commonly occur on the lower body or face. Varicose veins typically appear only on the lower body, so location may be one more way to identify the type of vein problem you are experiencing. You may find just one or two small spider veins, but they often appear in groups covering a larger area of the skin. You may find that you have what looks like a spider web stretching across your thigh, calf, neck or another area of your body as multiple veins crisscross one another.
What are Spider Veins?
Now that you understand how spider veins look and how they are different from varicose veins in terms of appearance, let’s look at what is actually happening inside your body to create these prominent veins.
Your veins and your arteries to create an intricate circulatory system that allows blood to pass from your heart to all cells throughout your body. This transfer of blood is happening constantly throughout the day and night. Without this supply of life-giving blood, your organs and cells would not be able to function properly.
Arteries circulate blood away from the heart to every part of the body, and veins circulate blood toward the heart. Small valves inside the veins open and close, allowing the blood to pass through and continue moving back to the heart rather than pooling in the lower body extremities.
As your body ages, the valves inside your veins can become weaker. They are no longer as efficient at keeping the blood moving forward, and that can cause backups that allow blood to collect in certain areas of the vein. When this happens in the veins just under the skin, spider veins are the result. When this creates a bulging vein that protrudes, varicose veins are the result.
What Causes Valve Malfunction?
Spider veins are often caused simply by the natural ageing process. The valves inside your veins weaken and the veins become less elastic in the same way that you start to notice fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin on your face and body. If you know that spider veins run in your family, then you may be predisposed to this condition as well.
There are some other potential causes of spider veins, including the following:
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- Hormonal fluctuations or imbalances
- Injuries to the veins
There are also a variety of lifestyle factors that can increase your chances of suffering from this problem, which is why natural treatments are often explored in conjunction with cosmetic procedures. One major lifestyle factor that may contribute to the problem is excessive sitting or standing. If you are worried about future problems with your veins ensure you are living an active lifestyle. In addition, get up to move at least every hour or so while you work can make a big difference.
Not Just a Woman’s Problem
Since most people do not experience life-altering pain from spider veins, this condition is often considered cosmetic. Women are more likely to suffer from lowered self-esteem or self-confidence because of the appearance of these unattractive spider-like lines on their body. This may impact their ability to wear some clothing styles that they find attractive, and some women will avoid bathing suits and lingerie because they are self-conscious about their prominent veins.
Yet, men are seeking treatment for this condition in growing numbers. Studies have shown that up to 45% of men will suffer from some type of vein abnormality. That is just slightly behind the rates for women, since up to 55% of women can suffer from these conditions. Men are also seeking more cosmetic procedures these days in general, as it has become more acceptable within male populations.
Are You at Increased Risk?
Even though spider veins can develop as a perfectly healthy body ages, there are some known risk factors that increase your chances of suffering from this type of vein problem in the future. Even if you are not overly concerned with the appearance of slight spider veins today, there are preventative measures that you can take to keep your veins healthy and lower your risk of suffering more severe issues in the future.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should see a trained professional to discuss preventative treatment measures for spider veins:
1. Do you already see varicose or spider veins on your body, even if they are faint and small?
2. Do many of your older family members have spider or varicose veins?
3. Are you overweight or obese?
4. Does your job require you to sit or stand for long periods of time?
5. Is your lifestyle largely sedentary? This means that you are sitting down more hours of the day than you are moving around.
6. Are you in menopause, or will you enter menopause in the near future?
7. Were you born with weak vein valves?
8. Do you suffer from a disease that may cause weakened vein valves?
9. Have you suffered injuries to your veins that may cause weakened valves?
10. Are you fair skinned?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have risk factors indicating that you have a greater chance of developing more serious varicose or spider vein problems now or in the future.
Any time that your body experiences a fluctuation in hormone levels, you are at risk. This is why pregnant women, teenagers going through puberty and menopausal women often develop spider veins. Luckily, pregnant women and teenagers can address the problem once their hormones level out.
Aside from medical causes and vein injuries, the other risk factors are lifestyle based. If you have fair skin, you need to watch your sun exposure to reduce your risk. If you sit more than you move or spend hours standing in one place, you need to add more exercise into your life.
There are varicose vein treatments that go beyond lifestyle adjustments, and it is possible, even simple, to get rid of the unsightly veins that you find so unattractive. With advances in medical technology, everyone should be comfortable baring their legs.