What are spider veins?
Spider veins, telangiectasias are abnormally dilated blood vessels in the skin. They usually appear on the legs but can also occur on the face, chest, arms, and back. Contrary to what many doctors think, spider veins can cause the same symptoms as much larger varicose veins, including itching, burning, heaviness, and fatigue in the legs. Although they may be symptomatic, spider veins are not usually a health hazard and do not lead to serious complications. In rare cases they can bleed profusely after being injured, but otherwise they are treated mostly as a cosmetic problem. However, spider veins appearing in unusual locations, such as the inside of the calf or ankle are usually indicative of a more serious vein problem, and treatment of these unusual spider veins may not be successful until the deeper vein problem is treated.
What causes spider veins?
Spider veins may develop in two ways. First, tiny pre-existing veins can enlarge and become dilated over time. Secondly, your body actually grows new veins where it doesn't need them...in the skin. Pregnancy, estrogen-containing medications, and hormonal fluctuations may stimulate their appearance, thus, spider veins are more common in women. They are not caused by crossing the legs or by years of prolonged standing or sitting at work. The tendency to develop abnormal veins is largely hereditary, and there is not much you can do to prevent them. Support hose, exercise, and dietary supplements are helpful for symptoms, but do not prevent new spider veins (or varicose veins) from appearing. In some cases, the appearance of spider veins may be an indication that there are larger diseased veins underneath the skin. The physician may use ultrasound to search for any hidden diseased veins. If larger diseased veins are found, they need to be treated first and eliminated or else spider vein treatment will be ineffective.