Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are varicose veins and spider veins?
The heart pumps blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to the body. Arteries carry blood from the heart towards body parts, while veins carry blood from the body parts back to the heart. As the blood is pumped back to the heart, your veins act as one-way valves to prevent the blood from flowing backwards. If the one-way valve becomes weak, some blood can leak back into the vein, collect there, and then become clogged. This clogging will cause the vein to abnormally enlarge. These enlarged veins can be either varicose veins or spider veins.
Varicose veins are very swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. They are dark purple or blue in color, and can look like cords or very twisted and bulging. They are usually found on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the leg.
Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but smaller and closer to the surface of the skin. They are often red or blue in color. They often resemble a tree branch or spider web. Spider veins can be found on both the legs and the face.
How common are abnormal leg veins?
About 60% of all American women and men suffer from some form of vein disorder, but women are more affected. It also is estimated that almost 40% of women will suffer from abnormal leg veins upon reaching their 50s.
What causes varicose and spider veins?
Although the precise cause of spider and varicose veins is unknown, there are several factors that contribute to their development. Heredity, or being born with weak vein valves, is the most common factor. Hormones also play a role. The hormonal changes that occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, as well as taking estrogen, progesterone, and birth control pills can cause a woman to develop varicose veins or spider veins. During pregnancy, besides the increases in hormone levels, there also is a great increase in the volume of blood in the body that can cause veins to enlarge. The enlarged uterus puts more pressure on the veins. 3 months after delivery varicose veins usually improve. After additional pregnancies more abnormal veins are likely to remain. Other factors that may cause varicose or spider veins include aging, obesity, leg injury, and prolonged standing, such as for long hours on the job. Spider veins on the face of a fair-skinned person may occur from sun exposure.
Why do varicose and spider veins usually appear in the legs?
Veins in the legs have the hardest job of carrying blood back to the heart. These veins endure the most pressure. Gravity, the pressure from body weight, and the task of carrying the blood from the bottom of the body up to the heart make the legs the primary location for varicose and spider veins.
Are varicose and spider veins painful or dangerous?
Medical treatment normally is not required for varicose or spider veins. However, varicose veins can become uncomfortable as well as look unattractive. Also, varicose veins usually enlarge and worsen over time, causing the legs and feet to swell. Although severe leg pain is not common, leg muscles may feel fatigued or heavy, or throb and cramp at night. Skin on the legs and around the ankles also can itch or burn.
However, varicose veins and spider veins can create more serious problems. If the veins become severe, they can cause a condition called ‘venous insufficiency’, a severe clogging of the blood in the veins that prevents it from returning to the heart. This condition can cause problems like a deep-vein thrombosis (blood clot), or a severe bleeding infection. These usually are caused by injury to the varicose vein. A blood clot can be very dangerous because of the possibility of it traveling from the leg veins to the lungs, where it may block the heart and lungs from functioning. Also, because the skin tissue around the varicose vein may not receive enough nourishment, sores or skin ulcers may develop.
Should I see a doctor about varicose veins?
Has the varicose vein become swollen, red, or very tender or warm to the touch? Then Schedule an appointment.
Can varicose and spider veins return even after treatment?
Current treatments for varicose veins and spider veins have very high success rates. Although uncommon, these veins can return after treatment. One reason may be hidden areas in the body where there is a lot of pressure on the veins. This pressure may cause new spider veins. Doctors can diagnose this with ultrasound. Another cause may be new re-growth of vein branches. Doctors have found that tiny vein branches can grow through scar tissue to connect to both deep and superficial veins even after surgery.