If you’ve noticed the appearance of some faint red or blue lines on your legs, you could be dealing with spider-type veins. Spider veins are quite common, but should you be concerned about them?
What Are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are small, damaged veins. They usually appear on the legs, but you can also get them on your face. They take their name because they can look like little spider webs.
Veins are the blood vessels which carry blood back to your heart. To stop blood from flowing backward, they cleverly contain one-way valves that close once blood passes through.
Spider veins usually form when these one-way valves are weakened, causing blood to flow backward and pool in the veins.
This blood pooling, and the fact that these veins sit in the outer layer of skin, is why they become visible on the surface of the skin.1
The good news is, spidery blood vessels are usually not painful or harmful.
Why Would I Get Spider Veins?
No one really knows why they occur. They’re thought to be linked to:
- Skin trauma
- Sun damage
- Hormonal influences
They’re also far more common in women than in men. In fact, more than 40% of women have either spider veins or varicose veins, with this number increasing with age.2
Spider Veins vs Varicose Veins
So, what’s the difference between spider veins and varicose veins?
Well, while spider veins are superficial, the blood vessels involved with varicose veins are deeper. They tend to make the skin bulge. These blood vessels are much larger leg veins, so rather than a spider-like web, they appear (and feel) more rope-like.
Varicose veins can be red, blue, or flesh-toned. Like spider veins, they are most often found on the legs. However, they can be far more painful, causing throbbing, aching legs, and mild swelling. They may also cause itchiness.3,4
How About Reticular Veins?
Reticular veins are usually smaller than varicose veins, but larger than spider veins. They’re often the source of the excess blood that fills spider veins and for this reason, they’ve become known as “feeder veins.” So removing reticular veins can help to eliminate spider-type veins.5
Getting Rid of Spider-Type Veins
Though spider veins are usually harmless and superficial, some people like to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. Your doctor or dermatologist may recommend one of these ways to treat these veins:
- A specialized concealer – A product that adapts to your skin tone and helps to mask the appearance of spidery veins.
- Compression stockings – Compression stockings apply steady pressure, which helps move the pooled blood back toward your heart.
- Sclerotherapy – A salt solution is injected directly into the vein, which irritates the lining. This causes the vein to collapse and the blood to clot.
- Laser – A gentle laser is used to destroy the vein without harming the skin.
- EVLT – A laser fiber is inserted into the vein, which heats it up and causes it to collapse.6
How To Prevent Spider Veins
Spider veins can’t always be prevented, but there are things you can do to help reduce your chances of getting them.
- Always wear sunscreen: Applying sunscreen regularly may help minimize the appearance spider-type veins.
- Wear compression socks: If you know you have a predisposition to spider or varicose veins (perhaps they run in your family), wearing elastic compression stockings may help.
- Get your blood pumping: Regular physical activity improves blood flow and may help prevent blood from pooling in the veins.
- Watch your weight: A healthy weight takes the pressure off your legs – and your veins.
- Stay mobile: Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Try to get up and walk around every 30 minutes or so.
- Avoid high heels: Low-heeled shoes can better keep the blood flowing in your legs.
- Elevate your legs: Raising your legs when sitting or lying down for long periods can help keep blood from pooling in the legs.7
Don’t Be Creeped Out By Spidery Veins
If you believe that you have spider veins, don’t be alarmed. The best thing you can do is follow the tips above and see your doctor.
Your doctor may talk to you about whether you have spider or varicose veins in your family, start you off with some compression socks, and examine you for any other potential vascular or blood flow issues.
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