Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Varicose veins and spider veins facts
•Veins carry blood low in oxygen content from the body to the lungs and heart.
•Varicose veins can lead to aching or even ulceration of the legs.
•Varicose veins can be caused be weakened valves in the veins or weakened walls of the veins, or by inflammation in the veins (phlebitis).
•Varicose veins and spider veins are not dangerous (with rare exceptions).
•Interventions and treatments such as surgery, "ablation" by laser, radiofrequency or other technology is necessary in settings where veins cause significant symptoms that do not respond to non-interventional treatment.
•Treatments available for venous disease include surgery and sclerotherapy, among other techniques.
What are veins and what is their function?
Veins are blood vessels that return blood from all the organs in the body toward the heart. When the different organs use oxygen from the blood to perform their functions, they release the used blood containing waste products (such as carbon dioxide) into the veins. Blood in the veins is then transported to the heart and returned to the lungs, where the waste carbon dioxide is released and more oxygen is loaded by the blood and taken back to the rest of the body by the arteries.
Veins also act as a storage for unused blood. When the body is at rest, only a portion of the available blood in the body circulates. The rest of the blood remains inactive in the veins and enters the active circulation when the body becomes more active and needs the additional blood to carry oxygen to the entire body. This storing capacity is due to the elasticity (flexibility to expand) of the walls of the veins.
Veins have different sizes that depends their location and function. The largest veins are in the center of the body; these collect the blood from all the other smaller veins and channel it into the heart. The branches of these large veins get smaller and smaller as they move away from the center of the body. The veins closer to the skin surface are called superficial veins. The veins that are deeper and closer to the center of the body are called deep veins. There are also other veins that connect the superficial veins to the deep veins, and these are called perforating veins.
Veins can bulge with pools of blood when they fail to circulate the blood properly. These visible and bulging veins, called varicose veins, are more common in the legs and thighs, but can develop anywhere in the body. Varicose veins are abnormally enlarged veins that appear most often on the legs. They are typically blue, purple, or skin-colored; and they appear as dilated, twisting and bulging vessels that may be raised above the surface of the skin.
Large varicose veins can be visible, bulging, palpable (can be felt by touching), long, and dilated (greater than 4 millimeters in diameter).
Small "spider veins" also can appear on the skin's surface. These may look like short, fine lines, "starburst" clusters, or a web-like maze. They are typically not palpable. Spider veins are most common in the thighs, ankles, and feet. They may also appear on the face. The medical term for spider veins is telangiectasias.
Spider veins (also called telangiectasias) are clusters of tiny blood vessels that develop close to the surface of the skin. They are often red, blue, or purple; and they have the appearance of a spiderweb. They are commonly found on the face and legs.
Spider veins and varicose veins are caused by structural abnormalities of blood vessels. Veins carry blood back to the heart from other parts of the body. They utilize a series of one-way valves to avoid backflow of blood. For a variety of reasons, these valves can become defective, allowing the backflow of blood within veins. The subsequent pooling of blood and pressure increase within the vein, and weakens the blood vessel wall. Spider veins and varicose veins then develop from the engorgement and dilation of the affected blood vessels.
Spider veins and varicose veins are very common in adults, though women tend to develop them more frequently than men. There are a variety of different risk factors that increase the chances of a person getting spider veins and varicose veins. Risk factors include advanced age, prolonged sitting/standing, obesity, pregnancy, hormone therapy (HT), birth control pills, injury, prior vein surgery, a history of blood clots, and a family history.
Spider veins and varicose veins often cause no symptoms or signs other than their undesirable cosmetic appearance. However, certain individuals may experience problematic symptoms from varicose veins. Symptoms may include swelling, throbbing, aching, burning, itching, heaviness, tingling, or cramping of the legs. These symptoms often worsen after prolonged sitting or standing. Individuals can also develop a brown discoloration of the skin and skin ulcers.
Spider veins and varicose veins are common conditions that affect many adults. These abnormally enlarged vessels, which affect women more often than men, appear most often on the legs and become more prevalent with age. Spider veins and varicose veins affect up to 50% of the adult population. .
Preventing Spider and Varicose Veins
Although spider veins and varicose veins may not always be entirely preventable, there are various measures you can take to reduce your chances of developing them. Prevention tips include:
•maintain a healthy weight,
•avoid prolonged sitting or standing,
•avoid crossing your legs while seated,
•elevate your legs when resting, and
•avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing around your waist, groin and legs.
Though spider veins and varicose veins rarely cause serious complications, some individuals may develop skin ulcers. These open wounds usually appear on the lower leg, and they may sometimes lead to soft tissue infections. Some individuals with varicose veins can also develop blood clots within the veins (superficial thrombophlebitis). Localized bleeding from varicose veins also can occur.
Your health care professional can diagnose spider veins and varicose veins by closely examining the affected areas, which are usually on the legs. The exam will consist of a visual inspection, and palpation of the areas of concern. Special attention will be given to areas of redness, swelling, skin discoloration, and skin ulcers. Though most cases of spider veins and varicose veins do not require treatment, those individuals who develop complications should seek medical care and treatment. The treatment of spider veins and varicose veins also is sought for cosmetic reasons.
There are various measures that can be used at home to help alleviate some of the symptoms should they develop. These conservative measures also can help prevent any potential complications.
Support stockings, also called compression stockings, are an easy intervention to use at home to help alleviate symptoms in the legs. Compression stockings improve circulation by increasing the pressure in the legs. These stockings come in a variety of styles and compression strengths. Your health care professional can recommend the proper pair for you. They are typically sold in drug stores and medical supply facilities.
A regular exercise program and weight loss can help relieve the symptoms of spider veins and varicose veins. Affected individuals should avoid standing or sitting for prolonged periods of time, and elevate the legs while sitting or sleeping to improve the circulation and decrease swelling in the legs.
Sometimes the conservative management of spider veins and varicose veins at home may not yield the desired results. In these cases, more specialized medical procedures may be available, depending on the location and size of the abnormal veins. These medical procedures are often undertaken for cosmetic reasons. Sclerotherapy is a common procedure that can be performed in your physician’s office, and it is very effective in eliminating the majority of spider veins and some varicose veins. During this procedure, which requires no anesthesia, your physician will inject a liquid solution directly into the affected vein, which causes the vein to collapse and eventually fade away. Several sessions may be required for optimal results. Potential side effects include bruising, swelling, bleeding, infection, and skin discoloration.