What are Spider Veins?
Spider Veins, also known as Telangiectasia, are dilated (expanded) blood vessels close to the surface of the skin.
Spider Veins are usually arranged in a star-like or spider-web like fashion, hence the use of the term.
Who Do Spider Veins Affect?
Anyone can develop Spider Veins but it is more common for those who are old and for those who stand most of the time.
Spider Veins are a fairly common condition, as concluded when researchers examined 1,566 people and found 84% of the sample had Spider Veins from just examining their right legs.
The Difference Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
Spider Veins are often confused with Varicose Veins. Spider Veins significantly differ in both appearance and symptoms. They are:
- much smaller (approximately just 0.5 to 1 millimetres in diameter),
- do not protrude above the skin surface and
- do not cause any pain.
Spider Veins are small abnormal veins, approximately 1 mm in diameter very close to the surface of the skin. Varicose Veins are swollen veins that have filled with pooled blood.
What Do Spider Veins Look Like?
Spider Veins generally appear as small blue, red and purple veins. Spider Veins appear in clusters similar to tree branches or webs that can look like small bruises.
Symptoms of Spider Veins
Besides the appearance of these web-like veins, symptoms of Spider Veins also include:
- Throbbing, cramping, or aching
- Skin ulcers
- Itching around the veins
- Feeling of discomfort or restlessness in the legs.
Where do Spider Veins Occur?
Spider Veins can surface on any area of your skin, however Spider Veins commonly appear around the:
- Facial area (chin, nose and cheeks)
- Upper thigh
- Below the knee joint
Causes of Spider Veins
Spider Veins are caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins. Weak valves can hinder proper blood flow causing the blood to back up and the veins to swell. Many factors can increase the chances of this happening, namely:
- Genetic or hereditary factors (your family may have a history with the condition)
- Sun exposure in light-skinned people
- Wearing a girdle or clothing that is too tight
- Harsh skin treatments
- Natural or induced hormonal changes
- Skin sensitivity or reactivity (N1:100 normal population).
How Do Spider Veins Affect You?
Spider Veins may cause a problem where blemishes on the skin's surface are of aesthetic concern. Many patients with Spider Veins have them treated for this reason,
Spider Veins can affect some patients by causing general discomfort. Other symptoms are:
- Swelling in the affected area
- A feeling of heaviness
- Tiredness in the legs.
Spider Veins are most often benign and on their own should not be a cause for any serious medical concern.
Spider Veins Can Be an Early Warning
Spider Veins generally do not have any immediate complications however, they can be early warning signs of long-term health risks such as Varicose Veins. Spider Veins can also be associated with more serious conditions such as:
- Poor Circulation and Swollen Leg.
- Bleeding - skin over the veins has become thin and is easily injured.
- Phlebitis - observable vein inflammation due to clots.
- Skin Ulcers - skin is deprived of oxygen due to veins not draining and can be difficult to treat.
- Thrombosis - forming of blood clots due to swollen veins. Deep Vein Thrombosis can be life threatening if the clots travel to vital organs.
- Spider Veins are often a sign of underlying venous reflux or "hidden Varicose Veins".
Serious Issues Related To Spider Veins
On the rare occasion that Spider Veins negatively affect your health, they may be a sign of serious illness. One very uncommon manifestation is a type of Telangiectasia called Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT). This is where are Spider Veins form not on the surface of the skin, but in vital organs (like the lungs, liver, and brain.)
This is a rare, genetic condition that may cause haemorrhaging and therefore can be life-threatening. Some studies suggest the incidence is 1 in every 10,000 people.
Risk Factors with Spider Veins
Generally speaking, anyone can suffer from Spider Veins. However, the likelihood of suffering from this condition may be increased by the following factors:
- Changes in hormones - Changes in one's progesterone or estrogen levels may trigger formation of Spider Veins. Hormone changes such as these are usually triggered by taking birth control pills, as well as going through pregnancy, puberty or menopause.
- Lack of physical movement - Lack of physical movement, sitting or standing for long periods of time, may make it harder for one's veins to pump blood into the heart.
- Exposure to the sun - Fair-skinned people are more likely to develop Spider Veins if they expose themselves to the sun for long periods of time.
- Aging - One's veins and valves may weaken as one gets older.
- Medical History - One is likely to develop Spider Veins if their family has history of the same. Having said that, being born with weak vein valves may also increase likelihood of having Spider Veins.
- Skin Reactivity - A small group of individuals may develop Telangiectasia in response to minimal skin trauma or injury.
Stages of Spider Veins
The stages of Spider Veins are:
Early Stages of Spider Veins
Most patients start seeing Spider Veins as early as their late twenties or early thirties. The early stages are very mild, with only faint hints of the veins appearing. It’s uncommon for the veins to form a web-like at this stage.
Spider Vein Progression
Sign that Spider Veins are getting worse include when your veins are: warm to the touch or are very tender.
Advanced Spider Veins
Advanced Spider Veins are easy to spot, as they form in clusters. At this point, discomfort or pain is expected.
Extremely advanced cases might cause one or more of the following:
- Skin develops sores, rashes, or ulcers
- Skin on your ankle or calf is changing colour and thickening
- Veins bleed
- Swelling and inflammation occurs.
Growth of Spider Veins
Growth of Spider Veins depends on how much a patient is at risk and what prevention steps are taken.
What If Spider Veins Are Untreated?
Spider Veins may grow into bigger webs if left untreated, thus leaving bigger blemishes. Aesthetically-related issues are the main risk if spider veins are left untreated.
Recurrence of Spider Veins After Treatment
The likelihood of recurrence of Spider Veins is high if there is a genetic disposition. Where the cause is of a genetic nature, more active prevention may also be required.
Spider Veins are also likely to come back with age or if other causes are not addressed, such as:
- Lack of physical exercise or an inactive lifestyle
- Standing for long periods of time
- Concurrent use of hormones, steroids or oral contraceptives
- Undertaking ineffective treatments
It is best to consult a doctor and seek treatment, especially when recurrence causes any sort of pain or discomfort.
Spider Vein Prevention
Further treatment can be avoided by living a healthier lifestyle and applying preventive measures that are similarly used to treat the condition. Lifestyle Recommendations for Preventing Spider Veins include:
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight as to avoid putting extra stress on your circulation
- Avoiding standing for hours without significant movement
- Avoiding putting pressure on veins by resting them periodically
- Avoiding sun exposure, especially if of a lighter skin type
- Avoiding wearing high heeled shoes
Periodic Vein Screening
Consult the appropriate doctor to screen for any other vein complications you may be at risk for. An appropriate assessment that gauges how likely you are to suffer from venous diseases is even more urgent if you have recurring vein disease.