Spider veins are small varicose veins that are red, blue, or purple in colour and threadlike in appearance. They are more prevalent in women, as high levels of estrogen and hormone fluctuations in pregnancy and menstruation play a role in their expression. Their prevalence also increases with age and weight, in those who have a family history of spider veins, and those who stand for prolonged periods of time.
If you have small spider veins with no sense of pain, there is no need to worry. Love yourself and all of your little quarks! However, if you notice that you are developing more veins at an uncomfortable rate, have pain around the veins, or symptoms such as leg swelling, heaviness of the legs, itching, leg cramps at night, or the development of large varicose veins, it may be time to get them checked out by a specialist.
Something known as venous insufficiency often occurs when spider and varicose veins are present. This simply means that your body not be adequately pumping blood back to your heart. This leads to the creation of more pressure in the veins, which causes them to become larger.
There are a few things you can do to prevent the occurrence of spider veins and improve venous blood flow. It all starts withdaily exercise. Exercise is fabulous forgetting your muscles pumping and your blood flowing. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables – such as raspberries, blueberries and greens – anything bright in colour will be bursting with antioxidants that will strengthen blood vessels and prevent further damage. To hit the point home, the prevalence of spider and varicose veins is higher in Westernized and industrialized countries, which points a finger directly at lifestyle and diet of processed foods.
Graduated compression stockings are great for preventing spider veins because they offer venous support where it is most needed. They provide the most compression at the ankle and pressure decreases as you move up the leg, working with the leg muscles to improve venous flow. Wear them under work pants and any time you will be sitting or standing for a long period of time.
Relax for at least 15 minutes each day with your feet up a wall and your torso at a 90° angle to your feet. If you’re watching TV or reading, put your feet up on a pillow and let gravity work for you, not against you! Both of these activities will take some pressure off of your venous system.
If you desire medical treatment, there are two types available: laser therapy and sclerotherapy. Laser therapy is painful and may require several treatments that produce still insufficient results. Sclerotherapy treatment involves injecting in irritant solution into the veins which causes them to become blocked and collapse, which makes them disappear. The procedure is uncomfortable, yet aesthetic results are usually more pleasing than laser therapy. Both treatments ignore the cause of spider veins, and more veins may develop over time.
So grab your running shoes, get that heart pumping, and be sure to relax with your feet up afterward!
Craig F Feied. “Varicose Veins and Spider Veins.” Sep 29, 2005. Medscape. 23 Feb. 2009 http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1085530-overview
James Laredo. “Cause and Treatment for Varicose and Spider Veins.” MedStar Health, Georgetown University Hospital.