What Causes Spider Veins on Legs? | Allure Medical

What Causes Spider Veins on Legs?

Matt Hirsch Vein Health, Veins

Spider veins occur in small veins of the legs and in other parts of the body. These thin veins often turn different colors and resemble a sunburst or the spider web for which they are named. They are primarily a cosmetic issue. However, they may cause pain or signal other problems.

Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

In most cases, spider veins are nothing more than tiny varicose veins. Like larger varicose veins, they typically occur because of valve failure. Your veins have tiny flaps of tissue called valves that keep blood from flowing backward to pool in the legs. Over time, this pooled blood distends the veins. The vein may become twisted and bulging. Spider veins often occur in clearly visible places like the back of the knee or around the ankle. It is this visibility rather than a health concern that often brings people in for vein treatment.

Causes of Spider Veins

Spider veins can result from quite a few different things. Among these:

  • Being currently overweight or obese, or having been overweight or obese in the past.
  • Suffering an injury that left you with limited mobility for an extended period.
  • Using hormonal birth control methods.
  • Pregnancy, especially if you are over 35 and have multiple children.
  • Genetics – varicose veins and spider veins tend to run in families.
  • Gender – being female increases your risk of spider veins, especially once you get older.
  • Lifestyle – those who spend long periods sitting or standing are more likely to develop spider veins.
  • Growing older. About half of all individuals over the age of 50 have spider veins.

Why Spider Veins Matter

Spider veins in and of themselves are often seen as a purely cosmetic issue. However, they can signal venous insufficiency, with larger varicose veins hidden under the skin. If you have spider veins and also have varicose veins symptoms such as aching or burning in the legs, swelling or a sensation of restless legs at night, you probably have venous insufficiency. If you have varicose veins and venous insufficiency, you also have a higher risk of developing an inflammation in the veins called thrombophlebitis, which can put you at risk for a blood clot.

Spider Vein Treatment

The conservative measures that can help with varicose veins may have little effect on spider veins because they are so small. These include wearing compression stockings, elevating the feet and not sitting or standing for long periods. For spider veins, however, other minimally invasive treatments are usually more effective. These include:

  • Sclerotherapy – considered the gold standard for spider vein treatment. The vein doctor injects an irritant solution into the vein with a tiny needle. The solution makes the veins swell, collapse and scar closed.
  • Foam Sclerotherapy – although basically the same treatment as that above, a foaming solution helps push blood out of the vein so the irritant can come in better contact with the vein wall.
  • Laser and Pulse Light Therapy – these heat the veins and cause them to shrink. They are applied through the use of a tiny catheter inserted into the vein.

All of these procedures can be performed in a vein doctor’s office. They use only local anesthesia and downtime is minimal.

If you have spider veins and want to improve your appearance or if you have spider vein or varicose vein pain, please contact a varicose vein specialist at Allure Medical. We can schedule a free screening to determine how serious the problem is and make treatment recommendations. You may need several treatments if you have multiple spider veins. Once treatment is complete, however, we think you’ll be pleased with your improved appearance and the lack of pain and other symptoms.