Varicose veins are large twisted blood vessels that are visible above the skin and generally form on the legs. Spider veins are similar to varicose veins but smaller and can look like spider webs. These conditions are often caused by malfunctioning valves, which cause blood to back up and distort the vein. Around 50 percent of women and 40 percent of men suffer from a vein condition.
There a number of causes for varicose and spider veins: age, sun, hormone changes, genetics, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Preventing vein conditions involves counteracting these whenever possible. Wear sunscreen, especially on the face, which is susceptible to spider veins. Exercise your legs. Keep your weight down. Don’t sit, or stand still, for long periods. Get up and move around periodically. If sitting, elevate your legs when you can. Avoid high heels. Finally, eat well, focusing on foods that are high in fiber and low in salt: fruits, vegetables and whole grains are recommended.
A number of treatments are available for spider veins. On the face, lasers that specifically target the vessels can greatly reduce the number and size of “spiders” The treatments are noninvasive and normally do not produce bruising.
For leg veins, sclerotherapy, during which a needle is introduced into the vein, is applied in most cases. The injected solution damages the wall of the vein and, within four to eight weeks, many of the vessels will disappear. Lasers can be used to complement the vessel reduction.
This Scripps Health and Wellness tip was provided by Edward Ross, MD, a dermatologist at Scripps Clinic in San Diego.