What Are Varicose And Spider Veins?

Varicose veins are the swollen, twisted veins that can be seen just either under the surface of the skin or jutting above it in the legs. Spider veins are in some ways similar to varicose veins but smaller in size . They are always closer to the surface of the skin than varicose veins.

What Are Some Common Causes Of Varicose And Spider Leg Veins? 
While it is known that there are numerous causes of both types of veins in the legs its generally believed that there is no one single all-encompassing reason for developing either varicose or spider veins.

Among the many recognized precipitating factors are

  • Increasing Age- It’s a well recognized medical fact that as we are our vascular system develops more medical problems, be it more heart disease, more hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), or more leg varicose or spider veins. As Dr. Martin L. Schulman M.D. likes to joke ‘We don’t treat teenagers, so my grandchild have even less reason to call’.
  • Congenital Defects In Vein Valves- This is something which is only rarely seen and when diagnosed it is often later in life. There is nothing to do about it other than the be vigilant in having veins treated and removed before they become medically problematic.
  • Obesity– More weight adds more pressure onto the leg veins and in turn helps varicose veins form. Obviously not every varicose vein sufferer is obese and even thin people develop veins but it certainly doesn’t help.
  • Pregnancy- See below for more information
  • History Of Blood Clots In The Legs- Having had prior blood clots, or phlebitits, increases ones chances of developing varicose veins. The vein valves in the vein walls are often scarred and the pressure in the veins increases over time.
  • Family History- This is a big factor and obviously one over which you have no control. Dr. Schulman also notes how often patients ‘blame’ their fathers who had varicose veins more than their mothers who seemed to have it less commonly.

Who Is More At Risk For Developing Varicose And Spider Veins?

There are three types of people who are, tend to develop leg veins more than others.

  • Pregnant Woman- There are numerous reasons why pregnancy causes leg varicose and spider veins to appear. There is the ever increasing weight of the enlarging baby and uterus. The increased blood volume to support the baby and uterus. And the ever increasing levels of hormones to help both the pregnancy and the delivery.
  • People Who Work Standing- When standing the blood pools in the leg veins more than when a person is moving about and thus contracting the muscles of the legs. It is that muscle contraction which acts like a ‘heart in the leg’ to push blood up towards the true heart. Even sitting puts less pressure on the leg veins then standing does as the pressure in the legs is less than that achieved while standing in one position. When standing occurs continually over prolonged periods, it can result in inflammation of the veins. This inflammation may progress over time to chronic and painful varicose veins.
  • Obese People- While most of us would like to weigh less than we do there is a venous component to being overweight. Often, people overweight may not even realize they have varicose veins as their swollen veins are not visible on the surface of the skin, due to excess fat. Being overweight or obese will very often put extra pressure on the legs and veins. Over time, the pressure in the weakened leg veins may cause damage to the skin on the lower leg. It is times such as this that people will usually go and consult a vein specialist or vein center. This is a major issue in the overweight population and they are at greater risk of leg ulceration.

If you think you have varicose veins or spider veins and would want to schedule a FREE vein screening with a board certified vein specialist, call the Schulman Vein And Laser Center. Our offices are in Manhattan, as well as both Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island.

Author: Dr. Lee Schulman / Schulman Vein & Treatment Center NY