Varicose Veins and Spider Veins: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Varicose veins and spider veins are a very common vascular condition and, more often than not, they are merely a cosmetic concern, especially with women, since they mostly appear on the legs. However, they can cause quite a lot of discomfort and pain in the legs, as well as some serious health problems, such as venous eczema, ulceration, blood clots, skin breakdown and even skin cancer.

This is why they should be treated as soon as the symptoms start, so as to reduce the risk of developing those serious health issues. Varicose and spider veins can be prevented as well, so it is crucial to learn everything about them and explore the best ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Whether you don’t actually have varicose or spider veins or you are experiencing some problems regarding the issue, you should know how you can treat them and not only make your legs or other parts of your body aesthetically pleasing again, but also make them healthy. Therefore, take a look at what they actually are, what causes them and what their symptoms are, as well as how you can prevent and effectively treat them.

What Are Varicose and Spider Veins?

Varicose veins, also known as varicosities, are enlarged, swollen, twisted and turning blood vessels that usually appear on the legs and can be visible through the skin. They often cause a lot of pain and discomfort and are much more dangerous than spider veins.

Spider veins are much smaller than varicose veins, but actually look quite similar to them, as they are also twisted and turning. However, they can be more easily seen through the skin, since they are closer to the skin’s surface. They can be red, or having a blue or purple color, and they are easily recognizable by their structure resembling spider webs, which is exactly how they got the name.

How Do They Appear?

Your heart pumps the oxygen-rich blood to your body through the circulatory system. The heart has four valves that control the blood flow as they open to allow your blood to flow either to your heart chambers or to your arteries and close to prevent the blood from flowing backwards. Your arteries carry the blood from your heart to your veins, which then carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart.

When your veins become weakened, the valves can no longer open and close properly, which makes the blood flow backwards, which is a condition known as venous insufficiency. This is how varicose veins appear – the blood pools in the veins, making them dilated and swollen over time. They mainly appear on the legs because gravity makes it more difficult for the blood to flow back to the heart.

What Causes Varicose and Spider Veins?

How do the heart valves weaken and negatively affect the blood flow in your body? There are various risk factors of developing varicose and spider veins, the most common one being genetics. Other factors that can cause varicose and spider veins include pregnancy and menopause (because of the hormonal changes in the body), too much exposure to the sun’s UV light, standing on your feet for an extended period of time that increases the pressure on your legs, obesity (also because of the increased pressure on the legs) and an injury or trauma to the skin.

Age is also a factor that can cause varicose and spider veins, because the heart valves become weakened over time. It has been estimated that 30-60% of adults have vein problems, while they are more common in women than in men.

What Are the Symptoms of Varicose and Spider Veins?

While spider veins are usually merely a cosmetic issue (although they may cause pain, burning or aching sometimes, especially after standing on your feet for an extended period of time), varicose veins can cause quite a lot of pain in the legs. The obvious symptom are misshapen and even swollen veins visible through the skin, while other symptoms include aching pain and tiredness in the legs, cramping of the leg muscles, burning, itching, throbbing and swelling in the legs.

The symptoms may also include skin discoloration and skin ulcers around the ankles, as well as eczema and thrombophlebitis, which is a condition of vein inflammation due to blood clots formed by varicose veins.

How Can Varicose and Spider Veins Be Prevented?

You can effectively prevent varicose and spider veins and ensure your health is in top condition by leading a healthy lifestyle that includes no excessive sun exposure and no standing for a long period of time. Don’t forget that maintaining a healthy weight is key not only to effective varicose and spider veins prevention, but also to your overall health.

If vein problems happen to run in your family, there’s a slight chance that you will have them as well. Nevertheless, if you take really good care of your health and take certain precautions to prevent varicose and spider veins from ever occurring, you will never have to worry about experiencing any of the problems related to them.

Make sure you exercise on a regular basis, so that you can make your legs stronger. Exercise makes you healthier as well and it will help you control your weight, so you should certainly not ignore its power and the impact it can have on your health. Have in mind that you should not put too much pressure on your legs, so swimming and biking are definitely your way to go, as well as any other low-impact activity.

Also, make it your everyday routine to sit with your legs elevated for 10-15 minutes, as it will help you relieve the pressure in your legs and it will contribute to your adequate flow of blood.

How Can Varicose and Spider Veins Be Treated?

There are several ways you can treat varicose and spider veins. If you happen to be experiencing minor problems with your veins and your condition is not serious, you can wear special compression stockings, since they can squeeze your legs and, thus, help your blood flow improve. Making some lifestyle changes regarding your diet and exercise can also be of great help.

If you are not experiencing any pain and have more of an issue regarding the appearance of the veins, you can opt for sclerotherapy or laser treatment. Sclerotherapy is a non-invasive procedure that involves the injection of a saline solution into the veins (smaller varicose veins or spider veins), which causes the veins to collapse in. It is a very simple procedure that doesn’t even require anesthesia and the results (which are permanent) can be seen after the period of 3-6 weeks.

Laser treatment is a minimally-invasive procedure that can help with spider veins or small varicose veins. It doesn’t involve any needles or anesthesia, but rather the sending of laser light into the affected veins, making them gradually disappear. It is called endovenous laser ablation and it involves the insertion of a laser fiber into the affected vein through a catheter. The laser light is used to close off every varicose vein and help blood flow through other veins that are healthy.

A quite similar procedure is called radiofrequency occlusion and, instead of laser lights, it includes radiofrequency energy to collapse the affected veins.


If your condition happens to be a bit more serious and you experience severe problems with large varicose veins, you may need to take a more invasive approach. There are several types of surgical procedures that your doctor may want to perform in order to effectively treat your varicose veins and those procedures include vein stripping, endoscopic vein surgery, and ambulatory phlebectomy.

Varicose and spider veins can be very dangerous, which is precisely why you need to take them seriously and make some lifestyle changes that will ensure your health is in great condition. If you happen to experience some of the varicose and spider veins symptoms, make sure you contact a good phlebologist who can provide you with the best treatment possible. Don’t underestimate the value of vein consultations, because they play a very important role in your health and can make a really huge difference. Therefore, regardless of whether you have vein problems or not, make sure you maintain optimal vein health by going on regular vein consultations – better safe than sorry, right?

Ana Vucic
Ana Vucic
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Ana Vucic is a creative writer at MyCity-Web with a degree in English language and literature. When she is not reading the latest A Song of Ice and Fire book, she is actively looking for an inspiration for writing in her favourite music. She loves travelling and exploring new cultures, and wants to visit the Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand, where she hopes to meet Peter Jackson.

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