What causes spider & varicose veins?
No one knows the exact cause of spider and varicose veins, but there are several
factors that cause a person to be more likely to develop them.
- Heredity, or being born with weak vein valves, is the greatest 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 also puts more pressure on the veins. (Within 3 months after delivery,
varicose veins usually improve. However, more abnormal veins are likely to develop
and remain after additional pregnancies.)
- Other factors that weaken vein valves and that may cause varicose or spider veins
include aging, obesity, leg injury, and prolonged standing, such as for long hours
on the job
In women, the presence of varicose veins on the legs often signifies a more extensive
health problem – pelvic congestion syndrome.
Pelvic congestion syndrome is caused by poorly functioning veins in the ovaries
and pelvic region, which can manifest as varicosities in the abdomen, buttocks,
vulva, and legs. Women that suffer from a generalized achiness in their pelvic area,
especially when standing, lifting, or after sexual intercourse, may suffer from
Spider veins, unlike varicose veins, most often do not occur in response to increased
pressure except for the pressure created by nearby varicosities themselves. They
often arise from the presence of the female hormone estrogen which is most likely
why these spider veins are seen more commonly in females. Women also are known to
have more development of spider veins when their body estrogen levels are elevated
such as when they are pregnant when taking oral contraceptives, and obviously when
on estrogen replacement therapy.
What can I do to prevent vein problems?
Once you have varicose and spider veins they will not go away without medical treatment.
While it is important to seek early medical attention to slow the progress of venous
disease, there are conservative measures that can help alleviate the symptoms of
Note: The arteries and veins generally suffer from different medical conditions
and the foods we are warned to avoid that are high in fat and cholesterol do cause
"hardening of the arteries" but have no effect on the leg veins.
Does walking make varicose veins worse?
No. Indeed, walking is beneficial. When you walk, the muscles in your legs contract,
squeezing the veins, thus helping to force the blood to move forward on its way
back to the heart. If walking causes discomfort, you should see your physician to
determine why walking is causing your discomfort (i.e. to exclude any other causes
besides varicose veins). Walking is also an excellent form of exercise to help promote
good cardiovascular health.
Should I see a doctor about varicose veins?
Remember these important questions when deciding whether to see your doctor : Has
the varicose vein become swollen, red, or very tender or warm to the touch?
If no, continue to follow the self-care tips above tissue around the treated vein.
This can cause numbness in small areas of skin, burning, or a change in sensation
around the surgical scar. The most serious, but rare, complication of surgery is
the creation of a deep vein blood clot that may travel to the lungs and heart.
What is economy class syndrome?
Varicose veins are often aggravated by extended period of sitting during travel.
In-flight inactivity, when combined with weak vein walls, can lead to 'Economy Class
Syndrome,' or the development of blood clots in the superficial venous system of
the lower legs. To keep legs healthy at 30,000 feet, practice in-flight exercises
like rotating your ankles while seated, walking the aisle, and standing calf raises.
Are there any complications of varicose veins? What problems can occur if left untreated?
Most people with varicose veins do not develop complications. It is impossible to
predict who will develop complications. The visible size of the varicose veins is
not related to whether complications will develop:
Superficial thrombophlebitis - This is the formation of a blood clot in the
varicose vein. It causes redness, pain and the area is tender. It is not dangerous
unless it is very extensive and approaches one of the junctions with the deep veins.
This type of clot is unlikely to dislodge and move to the lungs (unlike the ones
in the deep veins). I t is an uncommon occurrence.
Bleeding - If the varicose vein is covered by very thin skin, minor injuries
may cause bleeding. This can be severe and may require emergency admission to hospital.
If you have varicose veins for a number of years, these conditions may arise:
Venous Eczema - this may occur over large varicose veins or around the ankle.
It causes dry, red, flaky and itchy skin
Venous Pigmentation - this is brown staining of the skin around the ankle.
It is due to the leakage of small amount of blood from the veins into the skin
Lipodermatosclerosis - this is the next stage up from pigmentation in that
the fat under the skin is thickened and the skin feels hard and swollen. This is
at high risk of breaking down to form an ulcer after minor injury
Venous Ulceration - ulcers at the ankle.
Please note that presence of a sudden area of pain and discoloration in the region
of the legs, especially the calves, should be treated as an emergency as it may
be indicative of deep vein thrombosis.