If you have small, reddish-blue squiggly lines around your nose or on your legs, you probably have spider veins.
Spider veins are small end branches of your veins that are really close to the skin surface. Increased pressure in the veins causes them to look more prominent. That pressure can be from bigger varicose veins, the backing up of blood in the veins or damage to the veins that are draining that area of the body.
Anything that creates pressure in the veins can cause spider veins. Weight gain, pregnancy and prolonged sitting or standing are common culprits. When the valves in the veins are damaged, blood backs up, putting more pressure on the vein that’s transferred to the small branches.
Both men and women get spider veins. We tend to see it more in people who work on their feet all day or who sit for long periods of time. The risk of getting spider veins increases the older you get. It can occur in people in their 20s and 30s, but it’s the 50s to 70s when it really starts to show up.
It’s a little bit of both. People usually notice that their legs don’t look so great but, if there are other associated symptoms, such as leg heaviness, fatigue, swelling, achiness or bleeding, there’s probably an underlying problem in the bigger veins. It’s not life threatening and it’s usually not a sign of something worse to come.
How do you treat spider veins?
Once pressure causes the vein to dilate, it usually doesn’t go away on its own. If there are other symptoms associated with it, we treat the underlying problem – the bigger veins that aren’t working normally.
If there aren’t symptoms associated with the spider veins, then we treat them for the appearance. The most common thing we do is inject them with medication to cause the vein to permanently close so there’s no more blood flow in it (sclerotherapy). For some of the finer ones on the face, we use a small probe to heat up the vein to cause it to seal on the inside.
Spider veins can be treated year round, but because there may be some bruising and recovery includes compression, taking it easy for a few days and no sun exposure for four to six weeks, people usually prefer to do it in the fall, winter or early spring.
There are no foolproof ways to prevent spider veins. Moving more can help. Walking 10 to 15 steps reduces the pressure in the venous system dramatically. Compression stockings can slow it down. Ultimately, over time and with gravity, it just happens.
To have your spider veins evaluated at Ohio State, call 614-362-0336.
Mounir Haurani is a vascular surgeon who specializes in peripheral vascular disease at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.