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What Causes "Spider Veins"

by Marcela De Vivo

Spider veins most commonly appear in the thighs, calves and ankles. In some cases, they may even show up around the nose, cheeks and chin. While this condition occurs in 30 to 60-percent of the population and are more subtle than varicose veins, those afflicted with spider veins are embarrassed by the presence of these small clusters of red, blue or purple veins on exposed areas of their bodies. 

Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins

What is the difference between spider veins and varicose veins? Spider and varicose veins both appear when the pressure is stronger than the one-way valves, which are designed to prevent blood from leaking backward in the veins, causing blood to collect and enlarge the veins. 

Spider veins are just milder variation of varicose veins, which are dilated blood vessels that are close to the surface of the skin. They are much smaller in size and less likely to cause aching pain, itching and discomfort associated with varicose veins. 

So, what causes this unsightly cosmetic issue? Below you will find the causes, ways to prevent them and how to treat them: 

Causes of spider veins

  • Heredity is one of the major risk factors for developing spider veins, responsible for nearly 80-percent of the cases. If someone in your family has spider veins, you are much more likely to get them as well.
  • Gender—more women are likely to develop spider veins than men, especially in response to hormonal fluctuations. Pregnancy, menopause and the use of hormonal birth control supplements can all increase your risk.
  • Carrying extra weight also puts pressure on your veins.  
  • Situations that cause the skin to thin, like exposure to UV rays, injury or smoking, can also cause spider veins to become more prominent.

How to prevent getting spider veins

While spider veins cannot be completely prevented (especially if you have more than one risk factor), there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of developing them: 

  • Exercise regularly to improve your leg strength, circulation and vein strength.
  • Avoid standing or sitting for extended periods of time. If it’s an occupational must, try to take stretching breaks or short walks every 30 minutes. 
  • Avoid crossing your legs when sitting. Crossing your legs can constrict blood flow between your legs and your heart, which builds up pressure and weakens vein walls. Also, while sitting, elevate your legs at or above the level of your heart, which will improve the flow of blood from your legs to heart. Added bonus: it will also help alleviate any swelling in the feet and ankles.
  • Reduce the amount of salt in your diet. Salt causes your body to retain water and swell, which can put pressure on veins.
  • Protect your skin from UV rays with regular sunscreen application. This will protect your skin from becoming thinner, which will make your veins more visible.

How to improve the appearance of spider veins

The most effective way to get rid of spider veins is through laser therapy, which seals off veins, essentially causing them to die off and be reabsorbed by the body. Costly and painful, laser therapy also can result in the destruction of sweat glands. 

However, there are more natural and inexpensive ways of treating spider veins at home. Try these methods prior to resorting to expensive treatments: 

Lifestyle changes: While your genes and gender cannot be changed, you can make changes to the way you live to address issues like obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and exposure to UV rays. By exercising more and taking breaks more often during work, you can reduce the pressure on your veins in your legs, which can reduce the appearance of the swollen veins. 

In addition to diet and exercise, there are also speciality dietary supplements that have been shown to reduce the appearance of spider veins. One of note is an all-natural ingredient, known as Diosmin, which actually has considerable science behind it. Made from sweet orange, it helps to maintain healthy veins and good circulation for overall wellness. 

Massage therapy: Massages improve circulation throughout the body, which can help reduce the appearance of the veins. Regular massages can help prevent the development of spider veins. 

Support stockings and compression hose: Not only can these support garments prevent spider veins, they can also improve the appearance of the veins. The compression garments stimulate blood vessels and improve circulation, reducing the swelling that makes spider veins more prominent. 

While certain causes of spider veins are unpreventable, simple changes in your personal lifestyle can greatly reduce your risk of developing the blemishes. Being more active, wearing support garments and getting regular massages are all steps you can take to prevent the development of and improve the appearance of spider veins.

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