Varicose veins and spider veins are common venous conditions, especially in people over 50 years of age. They are basically the same thing, but spider veins are smaller and closer to the surface of the skin. Varicose veins are swollen, bulging veins that appear raised above the surface of the leg.
Varicose veins are usually caused when the tiny valves that help push the blood through the vein and back to the heart become weak. The blood no longer moves freely and begins to pool in the vein, causing it to twist and bulge. This is called venous insufficiency. They are most often seen on the back of the calves, the thighs and the inside of the lower leg.
Spider veins appear as red or purple threads on the skin and look like spider webs or tree branches. They can appear on any part of the body, but are most often found on the legs and face. Spider veins are commonly caused when there is pressure in the legs and the blood backs up. They may appear when varicose veins are formed. They can also be caused by trauma, such as an injury. On people with very fair skin, spider veins may form if the skin has too much exposure to direct sunlight.
The most common factors that put a person at risk of developing both spider and varicose veins are:
• Heredity – some people are born with weak vein valves because the condition runs in the family. If you have a family member who has varicose veins, there is a good chance you may develop them too.
• Pregnancy – since the amount of blood in the body increases during pregnancy, it may cause the veins to enlarge. In addition, the growing uterus puts extra pressure on the veins.
• Hormonal changes – during puberty and menopause or if a woman is taking birth control pills or undergoing hormone replacement therapy, there is a higher risk of developing varicose veins.
• Lack of exercise – people who sit or stand for hours are at higher risk. Since the veins have to work harder for people who stand for hours and for people who sit for hours, the circulation may slow.
Varicose veins and spider veins appear in the legs more often because the veins support the pressure of body weight and have the task of carrying blood from the feet up to the heart. The most common symptoms are:
• Aching in the legs
• Itchy rash on the legs and ankles
• Restless legs
If you think you have varicose veins or spider veins, it’s worth having a consultation with Dr. Mimi Lee so your problem can be treated early, before it becomes very serious. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at our office in Little Rock.