Spider Vein Causes and Symptoms


Spider veins rarely present serious problems for sufferers, although their causes are similar to those that give rise to varicose veins. That’s doesn’t mean spider veins don’t have a significant effect on a patient’s quality of life or personal confidence.

Fortunately there is no need to tolerate spider veins, as the causes and treatments are thoroughly understood in the medical community.

Spider Veins Explained

The patches of tangled veins that lie just beneath the skin are commonly called spider veins. They usually appear as red or blue in color, but can also look darker, purple or almost black. Although they’re much smaller than varicose veins, being typically less than one millimeter in diameter, they are clearly visible and often cause embarrassment to sufferers. They appear mostly on the legs, but can sometimes also show on the face.

It’s possible to live a normal and healthy life with spider veins, but if they’re causing pain or other problems, or restricting your lifestyle because their appearance is distressing, it’s good to know there is safe and effective treatment available.

If you recognize any of the symptoms described on this page, we can help!

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What are the Causes of Spider Vein

Spider vein causes are similar to those of varicose veins. Their job is to carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart where it is renewed with fresh oxygen before being carried by arteries back to the other organs.

To enable them to counteract gravity, veins have small valves at regular intervals along their length, which prevent blood slipping back down the vein between pumps of the heart. If the valves malfunction, blood isn’t pumped effectively and can pool behind the defective valves, causing swelling inside the vein.

When the valves in the veins stop working properly, this condition is medically termed venous insufficiency or chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). The result can be clusters of visible veins that may resemble spider webs or, sometimes, the branches of trees. Spider veins may also appear in those who have varicose veins, but whereas these bulge above the surface of the skin spider veins usually remain flat.

Various causes exist for venous insufficiency, with contributing factors including the patient’s age and gender. Their personal or family history of conditions such as deep vein thrombosis may also be to blame, as well as lifestyle factors such as prolonged exposure to heat, wearing tight clothing, or the type of work done. Those who sit or stand for long periods may be more at risk than patients who move around during the course of their work.

Other potential causes include pregnancy or hormonal changes, such as during puberty or menopause, or for those taking hormone replacement therapy. They are most common in women over fifty years old.

Spider Vein Symptoms

Many sufferers have no spider vein symptoms other than the unsightly patches of veins showing through their skin. Others, however, do get symptoms and these can be varied:

  • Cramps, aches or throbbing sensations in the legs
  • Legs feeling restless
  • Itching sensations around the veins
  • Legs feeling generally uncomfortable
  • Some localized swelling
  • Possibility of rashes

More serious or urgent symptoms that indicate a need for medical supervision include if the veins feel warm to the touch or are actually causing pain. Sufferers should monitor veins for bleeding or ulceration and sores, along with changes in appearance to the skin on the calves. It may, for example, appear thicker or change color.

Other potential complications that can arise from spider veins include phlebitis (inflammation caused by a blood clot), skin ulcers that are difficult to treat, and deep vein thrombosis.

Treatment for Spider Veins

It’s possible to live a normal and healthy life with spider veins, but if they’re causing pain or other problems, or restricting your lifestyle because their appearance is distressing, it’s good to know there is safe and effective treatment available.

Sclerotherapy for spider veins is a routine procedure carried out in an outpatient setting or clinic. It is performed under local anesthetic, although sometimes the veins treated are so small that no anesthetic is needed. A sterile solution is injected into the affected spider vein that makes the walls of the vein swell. Eventually the vein is completely sealed and no more blood can enter. Over time, the sealed vein is absorbed into the body and blood flow is rerouted to other, healthy veins.

There is no need to let spider veins blight your life when quick, painless procedures can eliminate them.