Spider veins and varicose veins occur due to weakness or damage in the veins. Varicose veins are typically larger, but both are externally visible.
Spider veins can be blue, purple, or red. They may appear in the form of thin lines, webs, or branches. People sometimes also refer to them as thread veins. Typically, they are not painful or harmfulTrusted Source, but some people may wish to treat them for cosmetic reasons.
A range of treatment options can remove spider veins or reduce their appearance.
This article discusses the causes of spider veins, also known as telangiectases, and how they differ from varicose veins. We also cover the treatment and prevention of spider veins.
Arteries carry blood away from your heart, and veins carry blood back to your heart. And inside every vein is a one-way valve that keeps blood flowing to your heart and prevents it from being pulled down by gravity.
A spider vein develops when a valve in a vein near the surface of the skin malfunctions, causing the blood to pool. Spider veins often manifest as small blue, red, or purple lines that spread like squiggly branches of a tree across the skin.
While researchers haven’t pinpointed the exact reason some people get spider veins and others don’t, there are specific factors that increase your risk of developing them. Here’s a look at some of the most common risk factors for developing spider veins and, if you get them, how we can make them disappear.
There’s no way to avoid getting older. And, as you age, your veins get older with you. This means weaker valves and walls, increasing your risk of developing spider veins. This is why being over age 40 is one of the most common risk factors for developing the condition.
Researchers aren’t sure what exactly causes spider veins, but they do know that they tend to run in families. In other words, if you have close family members with spider veins or other vascular conditions, such as varicose veins, your risk of developing them increases, too.
Women have a much higher risk of developing spider veins than men, and researchers believe one of the reasons is the hormone estrogen. Large amounts of estrogen can weaken the valves in your veins. When women go through puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, or if they take supplementary estrogen after menopause, the risk of developing spider veins increases.
When you’re not active, your veins have to work extra hard to get your blood from your feet and lower limbs to your heart. Over time, if you stay inactive for long periods, this increases the likelihood that the valves in your veins will stop working. That’s why if you lead a sedentary lifestyle or have a job where you sit for much of the day, you increase your risk of developing spider veins.
The harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun do more than affect the surface of your skin. They can also penetrate below the surface and break down your blood vessels over time. Sun exposure, therefore, increases your chances of getting spider veins, especially on your cheeks and nose or if you have light-colored skin.
Being overweight or obese puts added pressure on all parts of your body, but especially on your lower limbs. This added strain increases compression on your veins, straining the walls and valves and increasing your risk of developing spider veins.
Spider veins and varicose veins are different forms of a medical condition called venous insufficiency. Both conditions result from having weakened or damaged valves in the veins in the legs. However, the two issues have different symptomsTrusted Source.
Spider veins are typically small, thin lines that may be flat or slightly raised. They are often blue, red, or purple. Although they can cause some discomfort, they are painless most of the time.
Varicose veins are larger and deeper than spider veins. They may appear lumpy or twisted.
Depending on their severity, varicose veins can cause a variety of symptoms. These may include:
- swelling of the legs or ankles
- an achy or heavy feeling in the legs
Varicose veins may also increase a person’s risk of blood clots and circulation problems.
Factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing spider veins include:
- Genetics: Up to 90% of people with spider veins have a family history of them.
- Pregnancy: An increase in blood flow and the extra weight of the fetus on leg veins during pregnancy may cause spider veins.
- Sex: Spider veins occur in 41% of females ages 50 years and older. They tend to affect females almost twice as muchTrusted Source as males.
- Age: The valves in veins tend to get weaker over time. The calf muscles, which help support the veins in the legs and enable them to pump blood upward, may also lose some of their strength as a person ages.
- Having overweight: Extra body weight can place added pressure on leg veins.
- Hormones: Hormonal birth control and hormonal treatments for menopause may increase the risk of spider veins. This is because estrogen can weaken vein valves.
- Sitting or standing for extended periods: Veins in the legs have to work harder to pump blood up toward the heart when a person remains in the same position for more than 4 hoursTrusted Source.
- Past blood clots or vein damage: This can damage the valves and make them unable to work correctly.
- Excess pressure in the face: This can be due to forceful coughing, sneezing, or vomiting. Some people may get spider veins on their face after pushing during childbirth.
- Sun damage: UV light from the sun can damage the skin and cause broken blood vessels or spider veins, especially on the face.
How we erase spider veins
During sclerotherapy, your provider injects a special chemical solution into the spider vein. The solution irritates the walls of the vein, causing it to collapse. Over the following few weeks, your body eliminates the dead vein. This treatment usually takes 15-60 minutes, depending on how many veins you have treated.
Laser therapy involves the use of targeted wavelengths of light energy to destroy spider veins. As the laser targets the vein, the vein absorbs the heat. This causes the vein to break down. As with sclerotherapy, your body naturally disposes of the dead spider vein, leaving you with clear skin.
The right treatment for you depends on several factors, including the size and location of your spider veins. Your provider reviews your medical history and examines your skin to recommend the right option for you.