What Are Spider Veins and How to Treat Them?
Telangiectasia, also known as “spider veins”, is a condition where enlarged venules (small blood vessels) cause patterns or lines in the skin. These patterns are usually red, cluster-shaped, and take a certain amount of time to form. The name spider veins come from the fact that the lines and clusters are usually very thin, giving them a look similar to a spider web. Spider veins usually appear on visible areas, such as the nose, lips, and fingers.
While they are generally harmless or benign, spider veins can be indicators of more serious vein or blood-related issues. However, in most cases, they are nothing to worry about.
What causes them?
Spider veins are caused by the weakening of valves, which are responsible for pushing and transporting blood in the direction of the heart. The weak valves will not close fully, allowing a small amount of blood to leak back into the veins. Eventually, the buildup of blood will expand the walls of the veins, causing them to become more visible and prominent.
Common risk factors for spider veins include:
- Chronic alcoholism; which can affect blood flow, as well as the liver
- Aging; which is related to the weakening of the venous walls
- Corticosteroids; which can weaken and thin the skin
- A variety of skin conditions such as dermatomyositis, lupus, or scleroderma
- Hereditary factors
What are some of the symptoms?
Spider veins alone, while sometimes uncomfortable, are generally not life-threatening or anything like that.
Symptoms can include:
-An itching sensation
An example of a serious condition where spider veins are commonly present is hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). Spider vein clusters form on vital organs and can burst, causing large amounts of hemorrhaging and bleeding.
Symptoms of HHT include:
- Chronic nosebleeds
- Difficulty breathing
- The appearance of dark, purplish birthmarks
Why can women get them during pregnancy?
It is common for spider veins to develop during pregnancy. Pregnancy is associated with conditions such as increases in overall blood volume, a slower rate of blood flow, and hormone imbalances. All of these factors can cause greater strain on the veins, making them swell or expand, and causing spider veins. It is a perfectly normal condition during pregnancy, and should not be cause for too much concern.
How do you prevent them?
Spider veins are usually just a temporary side effect of pregnancy. After pregnancy, when your blood volume drops to normal levels, they should become less prominent, or disappear altogether. In some cases, however, they remain permanently. Another thing to note is if you develop spider veins during pregnancy, you are much more likely to have them during future pregnancies as well.
It is not really possible for you to prevent the onset of spider veins entirely. That being said, there are ways you can reduce your risk, and minimize its effects:
Eating fibrous foods
A diet rich in high fiber foods might help reduce the effects of spider veins during pregnancy. Constipation, which is another common pregnancy side-effect, heavily contributes to the strain on veins. Fibrous foods will help with reducing strain during bowel movements, particularly on the veins in the legs, and minimize the effects of constipation.
Some examples of high-fiber foods include:
Good levels of vitamin C
Vitamin C is used by the body to produce elastin and collagen, two tissues that help your body maintain and rebuild veins. This will help to reduce the damage done to your veins due to the extra strain on them from the increased blood volume. Vitamin C supplements are widely available and generally safe.
Examples of foods rich in Vitamin C are:
- Citrus fruit
- Brussels sprouts
Exercise is important for improving blood circulation, as well as the strength of your veins. Because spider veins are especially common on the legs, exercises which target the legs especially are important. Exercising can also help you lose weight. Weight gain is another thing that has negative effects on pre-existing spider veins. Excess weight puts additional strain and pressure on the legs and lower body, causing the veins to expand.
Pregnancy is less than ideal for high-intensity workouts, such as sprinting or heavy weight-lifting, so it is probably a better idea for you to do aerobic, lower-intensity workouts.
Some examples of these include:
- Light jogging
- Elliptical training
- Moderate upper-body strength training
Position for better blood flow
When you are resting, mostly sitting, try not to cross your legs, or sit in other ways which can restrict blood flow from the legs. Having them elevated actually encourages blood flow to the heart, aided by gravity, and takes some of the strain off of them.
Break up your inactive periods
Long periods of sitting or standing can inhibit blood flow to the heart. Standing especially can put pressure on your leg veins because of the weight of gravity on the blood and vessels. If you have to stand for an extended period of time, try shifting your weight from one leg to another, or moving your legs around to encourage blood flow. While you are sitting, try standing up and walking around every 30 minutes or so in order to increase your circulation.
Wearing compression stockings, or other compression-designed clothes will help with reducing swelling and improving circulation. They should be worn throughout the day but removed at night. That being said, it is probably a good idea to generally avoid tight clothing, especially anything that constricts your lower-body areas.