A Guide to Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

What are varicose veins and where do they come from?

Anyone can get them – the unsightly, bulging veins in the leg that jut out like a winding road.  Varicose veins are “engorged” veins, swollen and larger because of blood circulating through the leg gathers part of the vein, increasing its size and making it more difficult for that vein to pump blood upward back through the body.

The vales on the vein become deformed, which make it less likely to pump blood.  The pressure combined with this deformation of the vein’s valve engorges the vein.  Enough engorgement creates a “pocket” in the vein that sticks through the skin. This image gives you a visual representation:

Spider veins are smaller versions of Varicose veins, differing in that they are typically close to the surface of the skin.

Varicose veins for most people are cosmetic issue, but they can lead to blood clots and ulcers.  They can be hereditary and caused by a number of health conditions.  You should see your doctor about varicose veins and possible treatment options.

The U.S. National Institutes of Heath reports that crossing your legs for extended periods of time can cause Varicose Veins.  While this is true, for most people, once they experiencing swelling or aching in the legs they’re discouraging them from sitting in that position any longer before damage is done.

Is there a cure for varicose veins?

While there is no “cure” for varicose veins, there are many ways to treat them.  Discuss options with your doctor.

Should I worry about my varicose veins getting worse?

Generally varicose veins are reabsorbed and corrected with treatment, but they can lead to blood clots or ulcers/sores that form around the ankles or below the knee.

When varicose veins become too engorged, the blood will flow downward (towards the feet) instead of upward as the vein is intended to do.  This downward push of blood adds pressure to smaller veins, creating a high pressure environment on veins that are typically low pressure.

This added pressure can open up these small veins on the skin and push outwards towards the skin, creating a skin condition called stasis dermatitis.  Stasis dermatitis can cause pains, swelling, aches, and restless legs at night.  Eventually, painful ulcers, swelling, and soreness can form on the legs.

A doctor can do an ultrasound examination to check veins and be sure there are not more vein abnormalities in the leg.  They will search for the areas where veins have become malformed and if there is any blockage of blood flow affecting circulation.

How can varicose veins be treated?

  • Legs Above the Heart
    Treatment options usually start with the use of counter-pressure from the outside.  The first line of treatment and prevention is to sleep or rest with your legs over your heart.  This encourages the blood to flow towards the heart instead of away from it.
  • Compression Therapy Stockings
    Next, try compression stockings.  Low pressure compression stockings (such as 15 – 20mmHg) have been proven to help prevent as well as treat varicose veins and reduce swelling/aching.  Typically, with existing spider veins or varicose veins, compression stockings of a higher mercury (mmHg) are more helpful, such as 20-30mmHg.

    There are compression stockings with mercury higher than 20, but you should discuss treatment options before choosing a high compression stocking to be sure there is no danger of blood clots that can harm you further.

    Stockings push the blood out of the leg and towards the heart.  This reduces the swelling caused by the vein and encourage better circulation.

  • Saline Injections
    Saline injections can be injected into the vein by a physician to remove its color, making them less visible.
  • Surgery
    Veins can also be surgically closed or extracted, in which case the blood load will be shifted to the healthier veins.
  • Beware of Creams and Ointments
    Most creams and ointments are designed to alleviate pain and swelling, but they’re only treating these symptoms of the real problems with varicose veins.  It is strongly recommended to talk with a physician about the veins and get medical treatment options to eliminate the veins.

Are there preventive options for varicose veins?
Varicose veins are a persistent problem for those who are more prone to having them.   While they can be treated, the best solution is to live a lifestyle that makes them less likely or eliminates them.  Here are some things you can do to help prevent varicose veins from forming:

  1. Raise the legs over the heart – Similarly for treat veins, this can also be a way for preventing them.
  2. If you stand long hours, try athletic compression socks.  They’re comfortable and offer some compression to help keep circulation going in your legs through the day.  If you are prone to swelling, achy feet and legs, this is a great way to feel better and prevent veins.
  3. Get more exercise – A good strong heart can bring good strong circulation.  Walk more, run, swim, and do activities to keep the blood flowing.  As with most health conditions, the healthiest are less prone to getting them.
  4. Lose Weight – Obese individuals are far more prone to varicose veins because of the amount of weight and pressure put onto the veins by the rest of the body.  It makes it more difficult for blood to flow, more difficult to move, and can also decrease the pain or swelling sensations if you’re sitting in a manner that encourages improper blood flow through regions in the leg.