What are Spider and Varicose Veins?
If the valves inside of veins don’t function well, blood doesn’t flow efficiently, and the veins become enlarged because they are congested with blood.
These enlarged veins are commonly called spider veins or varicose veins.
Spider veins are small red, blue or purple veins on the surface of the skin which appear to resemble a spider web due to their characteristic branching pattern.
Varicose veins are larger, distended veins that are located somewhat deeper than spider veins. They can often be swollen and rise above the skin.
What Causes Spider and Varicose Veins?
To understand the causes of venous disorders, you have to start with the circulatory system. Our circulatory system is made up of two separate parts: arteries that take the blood from the heart to all the tissues in our bodies and veins that return the blood back to our heart.
The arteries benefit from gravity, which pulls the blood downward from our heart, whereas the veins have to generate their own pumping action to resist gravity and move the blood back up to our heart. To move the blood in this way, our veins are arranged in two layers: deep veins that run vertically within our muscles and superficial veins that are arranged as a network of thousands of vessels.
When the veins become weak and are unable to pump blood properly, blood begins to leak backwards into the veins creating a pool instead of moving blood upward toward our heart.
The pooling of blood, called venous insufficiency, is what leads to the appearance of spider and varicose veins and is responsible for the more serious symptoms of leg pain, leg swelling, and blood clotting.
Spider veins can be caused by venous insufficiency, however, they can also be caused by hormonal changes, exposure to the sun, and injuries.
It has also been proven that vein damage can be caused by cigarette smoking. The dangerous chemicals and toxins found in cigarettes wreak havoc on the body’s circulatory system.
Nicotine, perhaps the most well-known substance added to tobacco products, causes the body’s arteries to both narrow and harden, greatly heightening the risk for the formation of blood clots.
Other chemicals found in cigarettes act to thicken the blood and reduce oxygen flow, greatly slowing overall blood flow throughout the body. Taking in both of these factors together, one can understand that smoking both thickens the blood while at the same time narrowing the path that is has to travel through, thus leading to some extremely serious health conditions.
Here are some other risk factors to consider:
- Family History
- Prolonged Sitting or Standing
- History of blood clots (DVT)
Are Spider and Varicose Veins Dangerous?
When it comes to spider veins they are rarely a serious health risk. However, they can be very uncomfortable and can often feel itchy and will have a burning sensation.
Similarly, varicose veins have the potential to not cause any problems at all, but they may also cause aching pain, throbbing, and overall discomfort.
Both spider and varicose veins are a sign of venous insufficiency and need to be addressed in the event that they begin to cause uncomfortable or painful symptoms.
Additionally, it’s important to understand varicose veins can lead to more serious health problems.
- Sores or skin ulcers due to longer term pooling of blood. These sores or ulcers are painful and hard to heal. Sometimes they cannot heal until the backward blood flow in the vein is repaired.
- Bleeding. The skin over the veins becomes thin and easily injured. When an injury occurs, there can be significant blood loss.
- Superficial thrombophlebitis (throm-bo-fli-BYT-uhs), which is a blood clot that forms in a vein just below the skin. Symptoms include skin redness; a firm, tender, warm vein; and sometimes pain and swelling.
- Deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in a deeper vein. It can cause a “pulling” feeling in the calf, pain, warmth, redness, and swelling. However, sometimes it causes no significant symptoms. If the blood clot travels to the lungs, it can be fatal.
Should You See a Doctor About Spider and Varicose Veins?
Spider and varicose veins will not go away by themselves and there is a good chance they will worsen over time. For this reason, it is important for you to see a doctor.
Here are some other indicators it’s time to call a doctor:
- Any leg symptoms that prevent you from doing normal daily activities.
- Swelling in your leg(s).
- Throbbing, swelling, cramping or a sensation of heaviness.
- Aching pain that may get worse after sitting or standing for a long time.
- If your leg becomes swollen and painful, you might have a blood clot in a vein. Clots are serious and need to be treated promptly.
If you suspect that you have a blood clot, it is imperative that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Can Spider and Varicose Veins Be Prevented?
It is always possible to live a healthier lifestyle and make better choices but not all spider and varicose veins can be prevented. Sometimes it’s simply an age factor in which your veins don’t pump blood as well as they did when you were younger.
Preventative measures can also be taken if you have a family history of spider and varicose veins.
- Avoid wearing high heels for long periods of time. Lower-heeled shoes can help tone your calf muscles which can help blood move through your veins.
- Don’t stand or sit for long periods of time. If you must stand for a long time, shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes. If you must sit for long periods of time, stand up and move around or take a short walk every 30 minutes.
- Don’t cross your legs for long periods of times when sitting.
- Don’t smoke!
- Control your weight to avoid placing too much pressure on your legs.
- Exercise regularly to improve your leg strength, circulation, and vein strength. Focus on exercises that work your legs, such as walking or running.
- Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun and to limit spider veins on the face.
- Eat a low-salt diet rich in high-fiber foods. Eating fiber reduces the chances of constipation, which can contribute to varicose veins. High-fiber foods include fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, like bran. Eating less salt can help with the swelling that comes with varicose veins.
Contact Us Today for Spider and Varicose Vein Treatment Options
If you have spider or varicose veins contact Alabama Vascular & Lymphatic Specialists today.
Spider and varicose veins can be dangerous to your health and additionally can cost you self-confidence.
We provide the most comprehensive, progressive, and personal care available in the Birmingham, Alabama area.
During your visit our specialist(s) will review your medical history and develop a treatment plan to get you on the path to better health.