Heart & Vascular Institute

Spider Veins

What are spider veins?

Spider veins are smaller varicose veins which can appear anywhere on the body however most commonly develop in thighs, calves and ankles. They generally take on one of three different forms; a spider shape where a group of veins radiate outward from a central point, a pattern similar to branches on a tree or as thin separate lines. These blue, red or purple thread-like veins are usually a cosmetic concern but may cause mild aching, heaviness, itchiness or cramps at night.

What causes spider veins?

A single cause of spider veins is unknown however; any condition which weakens vein walls or causes abnormal blood flow will increase the likelihood of developing spider veins. Factors that increase the probability of spider veins are similar to those that increase your risk of developing varicose veins.

  • Genetics. If someone in your family has spider veins, it is likely that you will develop them as well.
  • Age. Although spider veins can occur at any age, they usually become more prominent in the elderly as their vein walls and valves weaken.
  • Gender. Some feminine hormones are known to relax vein walls, increasing the likelihood of spider veins.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy increases the pressure on your legs and changes your circulation to support the fetus, decreasing the blood flow between your pelvis and legs.
  • Standing for long periods of time. People who have an occupation where they spend most of the day on their feet are more likely to develop spider veins.

What are the symptoms of spider veins?

Spider veins are much smaller than varicose veins and are not associated with pain. They may cause mild symptoms such as dull aching, heaviness or cramps at night after a long day on your feet; however they are primarily a cosmetic concern.

What are the treatment options for spider veins?

Spider veins are commonly treated with sclerotherapy, laser therapy or through home treatment.

  • Sclerotherapy. During this procedure, veins are injected with a solution, which causes them to collapse and disappear.
  • Laser Therapy. During this therapy light is directed to the veins causing them to scar and disappear.
  • Home Treatment. There are many things you can do at home to treat spider veins such as exercising regularly, elevating your legs and avoiding sitting or standing for extended periods of time.

How can spider veins be prevented?

Spider veins can be prevented by doing the following activities, which improve your circulation.

  • Elevate your legs to keep your blood flowing regularly.
  • Exercise.
  • Maintain body weight. By maintaining your body weight, excess pressure on your legs can be reduced.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Moving your legs frequently will help pump the blood out of them.
  • Compression Stockings. These continually squeeze your legs as you wear them to promote efficient blood flow.
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