Facts on Spider and Varicose Veins

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Varicose veins closeup. Thick female legs on a gray background

Spider and varicose veins are abnormally enlarged vessels that affect up to 50% of the male and female population, appearing more commonly on the legs and becoming more prominent with age.

Spider veins are clusters of small blood vessels that form close to the skin’s surface. They are often red, blue, or purple and look like a spiderweb. They are often found on the face and legs. Varicose veins are enlarged veins that appear on the legs and are blue, purple, or flesh-toned. They are dilated, twisting and bulging vessels that may be raised above the skin’s surface.

Both types of veins are formed by the structural abnormalities of blood vessels. Our veins carry blood to the heart from other areas of the body using a series of one-way valves to prevent backflow. These valves can become defective, creating the backflow of blood in the veins. The pooling of blood and pressure increase in the vein, weakening the wall of the blood vessel. Spider and varicose veins are then formed from the engorgement and dilation of impacted blood vessels.

Spider and varicose veins are common in men and women, although women are prone to develop them more frequently than men. There are risk factors that increase your chance of spider and varicose vein development, including advanced age, prolonged sitting and/or standing, obesity, pregnancy, hormone therapy, birth control pills, injuries, previous vein surgery, blood clot history, and family history.

Once developed, it’s likely you won’t experience any symptoms or signs other than the appearance of the veins. However, some may experience symptoms from varicose veins, such as swelling, throbbing, aching, burning, itching, heaviness, tingling, and cramping in the legs. These symptoms are, of course, only made worse by standing or sitting for an extended period of time. Brown discoloration of the skin and skin ulcers are also a possible symptom. If skin ulcers form, they are most likely to appear on the lower region of the leg and can lead to soft tissue infection. Blood clots are also a possibility, as well as localized bleeding.

Your doctor can examine you and diagnose whether you have spider or varicose veins. This examination will most likely consist of a visual inspection and palpation of the area. He or she will notice any areas of redness, swelling, discoloration, and ulcers. While most who experience spider and varicose veins do not require treatment, it will be needed should complications occur. Most treatments are sought for cosmetic purposes.

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