Spider veins are a very common problem, found in up to 60% of Americans. More common in women than men, these unsightly blemishes usually occur on the legs, ankles, and feet, but can appear anywhere on the body.
Named for their appearance, spider veins are small vein systems, usually red, blue, or purple in color, that fan out from a central point much like long, wiggly spider legs. They do not bulge out of the skin like varicose veins and do not tend to cause pain or swelling.
Although spider veins on legs or feet are not likely to cause physical harm, they can be very unsightly. Many people choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. If you have spider veins or are worried about getting them as you age you may wonder what causes spider veins and how to prevent them.
The Causes of Spider Veins
Spider veins are the result of faulty valves in the tiny veins near the surface of your skin. These valves should prevent blood from backwashing into the veins and keep the blood moving on toward the heart. When these valves do not effectively keep the blood moving forward, it pools in the veins and causes them to swell and become visible.
Fortunately, the pooling of blood in these tiny veins systems close to the surface of the skin rarely causes any further damage. Spider veins do not significantly interrupt the blood flow. They are, however, unpleasant to look at. Many people are embarrassed by their presence.
There are many possible causes of spider veins on feet or legs. Some can be avoided and some cannot. Here are the most common reasons for the development of spider veins.
If other people in your family have spider veins, there is a good chance you will too. The weakness in the valves is something that can be passed on through generations. If you have a genetic predisposition to the development of spider veins on legs or feet there may not be anything you can do to prevent them. You can take steps to lessen their severity.
Many women develop spider veins during pregnancy. This may be due to the changes in blood flow in late-stage pregnancy, hormonal changes, or just the added weight. There is no way to accurately predict which women will develop spider veins during their pregnancy. There does seem to be a genetic link. Women whose mothers developed spider veins while carrying them are more likely to develop them during their own pregnancies.
Again, you may not be able to avoid the appearance of spider veins on your feet and legs during pregnancy, but there are ways to lessen the chances of it happening.
Being severely overweight is hard on every system in your body. The veins in your legs are no different. The extra weight puts an additional burden on the veins of your legs and feet as they work against gravity to return the blood to your heart.
Any extra weight you carry increases the chance that the valves will not be able to effectively do their job and this can lead to the appearance of spider veins.
Standing or Sitting for Long Periods
Standing still or sitting down for long periods of time makes it difficult for blood to flow freely up and out of your legs. Over time this additional work can cause the valves of the veins in your legs and feet to fail. This can result in the appearance of spider veins.
As people age the many systems that keep the body running begin to break down. The veins of the legs and feet are no exception. After 50 or 60 years of moving blood against gravity, the valves simply are not as effective as they used to be, leading to the appearance of spider veins on ankles, legs, and feet.
Preventing Spider Veins
It may not be possible to completely prevent the appearance of spider veins on legs and feet. There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood or delay the onset of these unsightly blemishes.
Exercise, especially a low impact type that works the muscles of your legs, like bicycling, walking, or swimming, not only increases the blood flow out of your lower legs, it also tones the muscles which helps to keep your veins contained.
Exercise is really important for those who have sedentary jobs. Sitting for 8 hours a day is hard on your legs and feet. Whenever possible you should get up and move around. A brisk walk during your lunch break or choosing the stairs instead of the elevator may make a huge difference.
Avoid restrictive clothing
Tight clothes, especially in the upper legs or groin, can make it even harder for the blood to leave your lower legs. Switching to loose clothing may reduce the pressure and help prevent the development of spider veins.
Elevate your feet
Raise your feet and legs above the level of your heart. This allows gravity to help keep the blood flowing in the right direction and prevents backwashing in the veins. Whenever possible, sit or lie down with your feet raised.
If you spend a lot of time on your feet, compression stockings can help prevent or delay the appearance of spider veins and keep those already visible from getting bigger. Pressure is exerted on the outside of your lower legs and feet to prevent the blood from pooling there. For best results, use stockings that exert greater pressure on your lower legs and reduce the pressure as they move up the leg.
Treatment is Available
Although rarely a serious health concern, there are treatments for spider veins on legs, feet, or ankles available if their appearance troubles you. These treatments are done for cosmetic reasons and won’t prevent future spider veins, but if you are ashamed or uncomfortable about your appearance you can get relief.
To find out more about treatments for spider veins on legs, feet, or any other place on your body, contact us at Medicus Vein Care.