Spider and Varicose Veins
Spider and varicose veins can be embarrassing and even painful for women (and men). Many women with these veins avoid wearing bathing suits or short skirts because they feel self-conscious about their varicose veins. But what causes varicose veins and how can they be treated?
Spider and varicose veins are enlarged, swollen veins that are blue, purple and flesh in color.
Fifty to fifty-five percent of American women have varicose veins compared to 40-45% of American men. One in two people 50 years old and older in the United States has varicose veins.
But what are varicose and spider veins? What causes them? And what treatments are available?
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood to the heart from the tissues.
Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that are visible just under the surface of the skin. They form when blood flow in the veins slows due to a weakened valve. A valve is a one-way flap that stops blood from flowing backwards. When this happens, blood collects, and a varicose vein develops.
Though varicose veins can appear all over the body, they are usually found in the legs. This is because of the natural downward flow of blood in the body. Varicose veins are also found in the legs because of the effects of gravity and because of body weight pressure.
Spider veins are more superficial varicose veins that resemble spider webs or tree branches. They are found in the capillaries, which are the smallest blood vessels. Spider veins are usually found in the legs and face.
There are two main causes of spider and varicose veins: heredity and pregnancy.
Pregnancy leads to an increased amount of blood in the body, which in turn leads to vein expansion and therefore the increased possibility of developing varicose veins. Pregnancy also results in the growth of the uterus, which puts more pressure on veins. Hemorrhoids are varicose veins located in the anus area that commonly appear during pregnancy. Varicose veins that result because of pregnancy usually diminish three months after giving birth.
There are other risk factors which increase a person's chance of developing varicose veins: sun exposure, especially for those with fair skin, often results in varicose veins on the cheeks and nose; aging is another factor which increases the risk of varicose veins.
Hormones can also impact whether a person develops varicose veins; hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause, as well as the use of birth control pills, affect the level of estrogen and progesterone in the body, which can lead to varicose veins.
Obesity, leg injuries, standing or sitting for long periods of time, and crossing your legs can also result in varicose veins because they diminish the strength of the vein valves.
To decrease the risk of developing varicose veins use sunscreen. Wearing support hose can also help. Controlling your weight reduces pressure on your legs while elevating your legs while resting is also advisable. Tight clothing should be avoided. Foods that are high in salt should also not be consumed often as they lead to water retention and swelling. Foods high in fiber on the other hand should be consumed because they ward off constipation, which can also result in varicose veins.
Signs of varicose veins include leg heaviness, swelling, overtired legs and numbness in the legs. In extreme cases, darkening of the skin can occur.
Varicose veins usually don't have any medical side effects. However, they can cause pain and, infrequently, skin problems, blood clots and skin ulcers. In complex cases, they can be surgically removed. You should see a doctor if you experience swelling or if your legs become unusually tender.
Many women in particular are turning to the cosmetic removal of their varicose veins. Treatments now exist which can help dramatically reduce the appearance of swollen veins.
One option is sclerotherapy, in which a solution is injected in the vein in order to seal it. This stops blood flow to the vein, thereby turning it into scar tissue. Sclerotherapy results in a 50-90% improvement of varicose veins.
Ultrasound sclerotherapy is another available treatment. In this procedure, an ultrasound is combined with sclerotherapy.
Another increasingly popular option for those who prefer less invasive forms of treatment is laser surgery. This treatment is more suitable for smaller veins but can result in slight bruising.
However, none of these treatments cures varicose veins and after several years varicose veins usually appear again because it's not possible to permanently prevent the weakening of valves located in the veins.