What are Spider Veins and what Causes Them?
Spider veins are the “little cousins” of varicose veins that appear in a spider web like fashion on the surface of the skin (hence the name “spider veins”).
In most instances they can be found in the area of the ankles, calves or at the thighs. Spider veins become visible as thin red, blue or purple lines in the top layer of the skin.
Frequently spider veins are handed down to us in the genes of our ancestors.
They can also be caused by trauma, hormonal changes (e.g. during pregnancy), being overweight or as a result of occupational immobility (e.g. long periods of sitting or standing). In addition, there are also somewhat larger veins (called reticular veins) in the legs that can become enlarged.
In most cases both spider veins and reticular veins are considered more of a cosmetic issue rather than a medical problem unless they cause aching, cramping and feelings of heaviness in the legs. Enlarged veins that are considered a cosmetic issue are generally not covered for treatment by insurance companies.
Spider veins can make their appearance at virtually any age but most often between 18 and 40 and become more frequent during the ages of 50-60 years. Unfortunately in most cases even with successful treatment of spider veins our bodies tend to produce more and more of them as we advance in age.
What are Varicose Veins and what Causes Them?
Varicose veins are the more intimidating “brawny relatives” of the itsy bitsy spider veins. Unlike spider veins that do not bulge under the skin, varicose veins are winding along as twisted and knurled humps under the skin like some dark blue or purple alien parasite has invaded our legs. Most anybody with a self-conscious body image would agree that varicosities are not a pretty sight.
What causes varicose veins? Varicose veins are basically weakened veins just below the surface of our legs that can no longer hold their proper shape to carry blood back up the legs to the heart. These defective veins have stretched out walls, which allow them to become engorged with blood that pools inside these veins.
The general opinion in the medical field is that one-way valves inside these weakened veins become defective or damaged thereby causing the varicosities of the veins. Experts further believe that a significant percentage of venous defects are inborn and inherited with our genes.
Other contributing factors can be pregnancy (due to the increased blood volume and the weight of the growing baby) or occupational hazards from jobs requiring individuals to spend extensive amounts of time virtually immobile in sitting or standing positions. Finally surgery, trauma or bodily strain can be triggers and forces that may result in varicose veins.
Varicose veins by themselves are generally not considered dangerous but more of a cosmetic concern as is the case with spider veins. That being said, varicosities can become a problem if an infection and/or a blood clot forms inside the vein. This condition is also known as superficial thrombophlebitis.
Varicose veins are also the result of a condition called venous insufficiency, which manifests itself with symptoms of pain, swelling, aching and throbbing in the legs. Venous insufficiency describes the lack of blood flow within a vein. This is usually caused by a blockage within the affected vein due to a blood clot or because the blood is leaking backwards and pooling in the vein due to damaged or malfunctioning valves inside the vein.
Compression Stockings are the most Common Treatment Option
Compression stockings are the most common and a very safe non-invasive treatment method for effectively boosting the blood circulation back from the legs to the heart.
Compression hosiery can help reduce or even eliminate the nagging symptoms of aching, cramping, feelings of heaviness and swelling associated with venous insufficiency, spider veins and varicose veins.
Stockings that run the full length to the upper thigh or support pantyhose are most beneficial in accomplishing this task.
Your physician will advise you which type of compression stocking or compression hose will be most suitable for your condition.
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