Spring is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to pull out your shorts and get ready for warmer weather.
Does that thought make you nervous? Are you hesitant to show off your legs because of dark, unsightly spider veins? If so, you’re not alone. Spider veins — sometimes mistaken for varicose veins — affect more than 80 million adults in America. While they are most common in women, men can get spider veins too. Here’s what you need to know about spider veins from Dallas dermatology expert, Dr. George Wooming.
What’s the difference between spider veins and varicose veins?
Spider veins are small, thin blood vessels seen under the skin. Spider veins are close to the surface of the skin and may appear red or blue. Their short, jagged lines give them the appearance of a spider web or tree branches. Spider veins are usually harmless, but can be a symptom of poor circulation or the formation of varicose veins.
Varicose veins are thick, enlarged, rope-like veins that can protrude out of the legs. They are often seen on the thighs, back of the calves, or the inside of the leg. Varicose veins become stretched out when blood pools in the veins and occur when one-way valves in the veins do not work properly.
What causes spider veins?
Spider veins can be caused by prolonged standing or sitting. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, aging, sun exposure, use of hormonal birth control and even genetics.
Pregnancy can also lead to varicose veins a result of increased blood flow and increased pressure in the abdomen. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause the muscle of the veins to relax, making them more likely to dilate.
Weak or damaged valves in the veins can also cause varicose. As the heart pumps blood through the arteries, the veins carry the blood from the body back to the heart. A one-way valve in the veins prevents the backflow of blood back into the legs. If this valve becomes weak or damaged, the blood can leak back into the veins and collect there.
Are they dangerous?
In most cases, spider veins are not a reason for concern, however they can cause discomfort in the legs, such as itching or burning. Varicose veins may cause aching pain or throbbing in the legs and may signal more long-term health problems including: poor circulation, blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, and leg swelling.
If you have spider veins or varicose veins, it’s important to have them checked out by a doctor or dermatologist.
How can vein issues be prevented?
Exercise is the number one way to prevent the development of spider or varicose veins in your legs. Exercise — such as swimming, walking, and stair climbing — promotes increased circulation. It’s also important to maintain a healthy diet to avoid weight gain and reduce other risk factors such as smoking. Here are some ways to ease discomfort from existing spider or varicose veins:
- Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun.
- Avoid crossing your legs for long periods when sitting.
- Elevate your legs when resting.
- Don’t sit for long periods of time. If you must sit for a long time, get up and move or take a short walk every 30 minutes.
- Avoid wearing high heels for long periods of time.
- Eat a low-salt diet and increase your fiber intake.
How are spider veins treated?
If your veins don’t cause symptoms, lifestyle changes such as exercise and quitting smoking may be the only “treatment” your doctor recommends. However, if your veins become more severe, your doctor or dermatologist may recommend treatment. Some treatment options for spider veins and varicose veins include:
- Compression stockings to put pressure on the veins.
- Laser treatments of spider veins and smaller varicose veins to cause the vein to fade and slowly disappear.
- Endovenous techniques using radiofrequency or laser to heat up the inside of the vein and close it off.
- Surgery to remove the vein.
If you’ve noticed spider or varicose veins on your legs, contact the Dallas dermatology expert, Dr. George Wooming for sclerotherapy.