Spider Veins: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What are the causes?

Like varicose veins, spider veins are caused by venous insufficiency. Normally, your veins carry blood from body tissues back to your heart to be replenished with oxygen and then re-circulated throughout your body. To help the blood from your legs flow upward and against gravity, each vein is equipped with tiny, one-way valves. With each pump of the heart, blood travels further through this series of valves, but when these valves fail or leak, blood collects or pools, causing the veins to exhibit their characteristic “spider web” appearance.

Who's at risk?

Tens of millions of Americans suffer from spider veins. Contributing factors include heredity, gender, age, weight, pregnancy, history of deep vein thrombosis ( DVT and blood clots), and standing or sitting for long periods of time. Additional factors that may cause spider veins include smoking, exposure to heat (hot tubs, baths, saunas), and tight clothing.

In addition:

  • Close to 50% of women ages 40 to 50 have spider veins
  • About 75% of women ages 60 to 70 have spider veins
  • Around 25% of men age 30 to 40 have spider veins
  • Close to 50% of men over the age of 70 have spider veins

What are the risk factors?

  • Aging
  • Family history of venous insufficiency or a history of blood clots
  • Use of oral birth control pills
  • Hormonal changes during puberty, menopause, or hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Wearing a girdle or clothing that's too tight
  • Obesity
  • Constipation
  • Sun exposure
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