What are spider veins?

These appear as red, purple, and/or blue “spider’s legs,” and are small, dilated vessels caused by the pooling of blood close to the surface of the skin. They often appear alongside slightly larger blue or green reticular veins.

Spider veins can occur either with or without venous insufficiency. On their own and without any other concurrent problems, spider veins are cosmetic issues that can be successfully treated with sclerotherapy. However, when other insufficiency exists, this treatment is unlikely to be effective without the underlying cause being resolved.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins afflict 10% to 20% of all adults but serve no useful purpose in the body. They are swollen, twisted, blue veins that are close to the surface of the skin. The valves in them are damaged and they hold more blood at higher pressure than normal veins. This increased pressure forces fluid into the surrounding tissue, making the affected leg swell, possibly discolored and feel heavy.

Unsightly and uncomfortable, varicose veins may promote swelling of the ankles and feet and itching of the skin. They may occur in almost any part of the body, but are most often seen in the back of the calf or on the inside of the leg between the groin and the ankle. If left untreated, these are likely to increase in severity, with some eventually leading to venous ulceration.

Varicose veins appear on the skin as twisted and ropey and are red or blue in color, but can also be concealed farther beneath the skin’s surface. These veins are caused by faulty valves in the vessels that begin to leak, resulting in the inability to properly pump blood to the heart.

The pooling of this blood expands these veins, causing their thick and corded appearance. Cosmetic difficulties aside, varicose veins can also cause burning, itching, swelling, pain, throbbing, and other discomfort that will increase in its severity over time. The longer this condition is left untreated, the greater the likelihood of more serious venous problems.

Who is at risk for varicose veins?

Varicose Veins are usually caused by venous insufficiency which may be genetic or can be worsened by other factors, such as: age, gender, family history, heavy lifting, multiple pregnancies, obesity and/or a standing profession.

What causes varicose veins?

The normal function of leg veins – both the deep veins in the leg and the superficial veins, which feed them – is to carry blood back to the heart. During walking, for instance, the calf muscle acts as a pump, contracting veins and forcing blood back to the heart.

To prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction, veins have numerous valves. If the valves fail (a cause of venous reflux), blood flows back into superficial veins and back down the leg. This results in these veins enlarging and becoming varicose. The process is like blowing air into a balloon without letting the air flow out again- the balloon swells.

To succeed, treatment must stop this reversal of flow at the highest site of valve failure. In the legs, veins close to the surface of the skin drain into larger veins; such as the greater saphenous vein, which courses up to the groin. Damaged valves in the greater saphenous vein are often the cause of reversed blood flow back down to the ankle.

What is venous reflux disease?

Healthy leg veins contain valves that open and close to assist the return of blood back to the heart. Venous reflux disease develops when the valves that keep blood flowing out of the legs and back to the heart become damaged or diseased. As a result, vein valves will not close properly, leading to symptoms of varicose veins: pain, throbbing, burning, itching, aching, cramping, swollen limbs, leg heaviness and fatigue, skin changes and ulcers.

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