[By Charlotte Chen]
They are small, red and resemble little spiders crawling u our legs, hence the term spider veins. Apart from the affectionate sounding term, there is nothing affectionate about the appearance of these spider veins. They can become worse with age, and will not disappear with time unlike other beauty woes such as pimples or a bad haircut.
Spider veins are small, tangled groups of tiny blood vessels just underneath the surface of the skin that resembles spider webs or tree branches. They are generally red, blue or purple and are clearly visible, usually on the thighs, lower legs and even face.
Spider veins can be caused by the backup of blood. They can also be caused by hormone changes, exposure to the sun, and injuries.
Many factors increase a person’s chances of developing spider veins. These include:
- Increasing age. As you get older, the valves in your veins may weaken and not work as well.
- Medical history. Being born with weak vein valves increases your risk. Having family members with vein problems also increases your risk. About half of all people who have varicose veins have a family member who has them too.
- Hormonal changes. These occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Taking birth control pills and other medicines containing oestrogen and progesterone also may contribute to the forming of varicose or spider veins.
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy, there is a huge increase in the amount of blood in the body. This can cause veins to enlarge. The growing uterus also puts pressure on the veins. Varicose veins usually improve within 3 months after delivery. More varicose veins and spider veins usually appear with each additional pregnancy.
- Obesity. Being overweight or obese can put extra pressure on your veins. This can lead to varicose veins.
- Lack of movement. Sitting or standing for a long time may force your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart. This may be a bigger problem if you sit with your legs bent or crossed.
- Sun exposure. This can cause spider veins on the cheeks or nose of a fair-skinned person.
Spider veins can be treated either by Sclerotherapy or laser vein removal treatment. Sclerotherapy involves tiny injections of a sterile solution (sclerosant) directly into the veins causing them to collapse and be removed by the body while laser vein removal treatment uses a particular wavelength of light to target the vein. Lasers used include long pulsed Nd Yag, the pulsed dye laser and the Alexandrite laser. The exact laser will depend on the colour of the vein (reddish, bluish etc), the location (face, leg etc) and type of vein. At the Sloane Clinic, doctors may use a combination of laser modalities to achieve a high clearance of spider veins.
A combination of both treatments may give synergistic results. Significant results can usually be seen after one treatment, but depending on the severity and area, one may require 3 to 4 treatments for optimal results. The veins typically do not recur after sclerotherapy or laser vein removal, though it is possible for new veins to form.There is no downtime involved and you are generally encouraged to resume most normal activities immediately but the doctor will ask that you refrain from vigorous activities for the first 24 hours. Spider veins from all causes can be treated by the above methods.
Not all varicose and spider veins can be prevented. But, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting new varicose and spider veins. These same things can help ease discomfort from the ones you already have:
- Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun and to limit spider veins on the face.
- Exercise regularly to improve your leg strength, circulation, and vein strength. Focus on exercises that work your legs, such as walking or running.
- Control your weight to avoid placing too much pressure on your legs.
- Don’t cross your legs for long times when sitting. It’s possible to injure your legs that way, and even a minor injury can increase the risk of varicose veins.
- Elevate your legs when resting as much as possible.
- Don’t stand or sit for long periods of time. If you must stand for a long time, shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes. If you must sit for long periods of time, stand up and move around or take a short walk every 30 minutes.
- Wear elastic support stockings and avoid tight clothing that constricts your waist, groin, or legs.
- Avoid wearing high heels for long periods of time. Lower-heeled shoes can help tone your calf muscles to help blood move through your veins.
- Eat a low-salt diet rich in high-fiber foods. Eating fiber reduces the chances of constipation, which can contribute to varicose veins. High-fiber foods include fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, like bran. Eating less salt can help with the swelling that comes with varicose veins.