What are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are small networks of red, blue and purple veins that are visible on the skin’s surface. They get their name because the twisting lines often resemble a spider’s web. They can appear nearly anywhere on the body, but are most commonly seen on the legs and face. Spider veins are typically no more than a cosmetic concern. However, some people experience uncomfortable symptoms with their spider veins that prompt them to seek treatment for their condition.
The majority of spider veins that appear are not accompanied by any other symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they are generally one or more of the following:
- Burning and stinging sensations
- Pain or heaviness in the legs
Symptoms are often exacerbated by long periods of sitting or standing in one position. Symptoms may also indicate a more serious underlying vascular condition. If you experience any of these symptoms with the appearance of spider veins, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
What Causes Them?
Veins are responsible for carrying blood back to the heart after oxygen and other nutrients are delivered via the bloodstream to all the areas of the body. Valves located inside the veins keep the blood flowing in a single direction toward the heart. In some cases, these valves can become damaged or simply worn out, and are no longer able to move the blood through the veins as efficiently as they once did.
When the valves are no longer working as well, blood can pool inside that area of the vein. This results in an enlarging of the vein, and its appearance on the surface of the skin. In the case of spider veins, it is the small superficial veins near the skin’s surface that become affected. If left untreated, spider vein networks can grow, as other valves inside the vein become weakened.
Other possible causes for spider veins include exposure to the sun, particularly in the appearance of spider veins on the face. Additional pressure on the veins in the lower extremities, from weight gain or pregnancy, might also contribute to the condition. Injury or trauma to the skin can result in the formation of spider veins as well.
Risk Factors for Spider Veins
There are a number of factors that may contribute to the development of spider veins, including:
- Gender – Women are more likely to develop spider veins than men. When men do get this condition, it is often hidden behind the hair on the man’s legs. That makes spider veins a greater cosmetic concern for women as well.
- Genetics – If your mother or grandmother had spider veins, you are more likely to develop them as well.
- Age – Spider veins typically appear during the middle years of life, although some women develop them as early as their 20s.
- Hormones – Fluctuating hormones throughout life, from the monthly cycle, pregnancy or menopause, can contribute to the development of spider veins.
- Pregnancy – In addition to the hormonal changes, pregnancy can also increase the risk of spider veins due to the increased burden on the legs from the expanding uterus and the increased blood flow throughout those nine months that puts more pressure on the veins.
- Sitting and Standing – Jobs that require prolonged sitting or standing can also increase pressure on the legs and the likelihood spider veins will appear.
- Injury – In some cases, spider veins may develop after an injury or trauma to the leg, such as a broken bone or surgery.
Are Spider Veins Dangerous?
Spider veins are rarely considered a dangerous problem. However, they could signify an underlying venous condition that could become more severe if left unchecked. It is a good idea to have spider veins checked by a medical professional who can diagnose a possible underlying medical condition.
Treatment Options and Costs
There are two primary options for treating spider veins today; sclerotherapy and laser treatments. Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a solution into the affected vein, which causes it to seal shut and fade from view. Laser treatments work in a similar fashion, only laser heat is used to seal the vein rather than a sclerosing agent. VeinRecovery offers additional information about both of these treatments to help patients educate themselves about their options.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost to treat spider veins was $351 in 2012. Insurance rarely covers the cost of this treatment, since it is primarily performed for cosmetic reasons. However, the physician offering the treatment may offer a payment plan to make the procedure more affordable for patients.