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What to Do About Spider Veins

Are little twisted, knotted, unsightly veins preventing you from putting your best leg forward? Spider veins – commonly found just below the surface of the skin, on the legs and face – cause between 30 and 60% of women and 25-50% of men embarrassment or distress, knocking their self-confidence and prompting them to cover up, even in warm weather. If you’re one of these people, here’s what you need to know about spider veins

What are Spider Veins?

Spider veins (known medically as telangiectasias or angioectasias) are small dilated blood vessels – around 0.5 to 2 millimetres in size – which occur just below the surface of the skin, on the white of the eyes and on mucous membranes, like the small intestine or stomach.Since they radiate out from a central blood vessel they tend to resemble a spider’s web, hence the name. Spider veins can be limited to tiny areas or cover large areas of the body and are red, blue or purple in appearance.

What’s the Difference Between Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?

In contrast to the fine, spidery appearance of spider veins, varicose veins are thick, swollen blood vessels, usually found on the legs. They’re formed when blood pools in veins, a result of poor circulation. Varicose veins can cause discomfort and pain – described as a throbbing, tiredness or burning sensation – and can be dangerous. Complications from varicose veins can include thrombophlebitis (blood clot with inflammation of the vein) or ulcers. Spider veins under the skin, on the other hand,rarely present such complications and are, by and large, a cosmetic issue only.

What Causes Spider Veins?

Veins are blood vessels which carry de-oxygenated blood from the body back to the heart. Veins are equipped with one-way valves which allow blood to pass through, but not back into, them. When these valves are weakened, they cannot function properly. As a result, blood flows back into the vessel and pools there, causing enlarged (‘spider’) veins to form.

The causes of spider veins are numerous but, broadly speaking, are either congenital (inherited) or acquired. Being born with weak vein valves; increasing age; injury; obesity; pregnancy; fluctuations in hormone levels;over-exposure to the sun and sitting or standing for long periods of time can all be contributing factors.

Can Alcohol Cause Spider Veins?

Spider veins around the nose and on the cheeks can give off that flushed look which is often associated with heavy drinkers. Says the New Zealand Dermatological Society, sustained alcohol intake can cause failure in the regulation of vascular control, leading to enlarged blood vessels (spider veins) on the face.

How to Treat Spider Veins

There are severalcourses of action:

  • Sclerotherapy – a doctor injects a saline solution into the veins, causing it to gradually dissolve over a period of three to six weeks
  • Endovenous laser treatment – a laser fibre is inserted into the vein and laser light pulsed through it, causing it to collapse
  • Radiofrequency occlusion – radiofrequency energy is delivered to the vain via a tiny catheter, which causes the vein to collapse
  • Medical support stockings – in severe cases, wearing medical support stockings can help relieve pain or discomfort

Remember: Always consult a qualified specialist doctor (called a phlebologist) for treatment advice and to carry out medical procedures.

Can Spider Veins be Prevented?

Making lifestyle changes can help prevent spider veins, or help the condition form worsening. Do:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced, low-sodium diet
  • Avoid the excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Exercise regularly – walking is particularly good to get circulation going
  • Take regular breaks and/or change position frequently if your work entails prolonged periods of sitting or standing
  • Wear flat shoes
  • Sit or sleep with elevated legs
  • Wear sunscreen when outdoors
  • Get a spa massage to aid circulation.
Author: South African Spas