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Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about varicose veins and spider veins, and while most people might know what they look like, they actually do not know the facts about the same. There are actually a number of things that need to be understood about varicose veins as well as spider veins, before a proper course of treatment can be charted out and you can make your way to a better life.
In this double article, we will look at everything related to varicose veins as well as spider veins.

What are varicose veins and what are spider veins?

Varicose veins is a term used to describe veins that have become really enlarged and have changed colour to blue or red. Many a times, the veins look as if they are cords and they have become entangled and swollen. Most often, these engorged veins are found on the thighs, inside part of the legs and back of the calves. Varicose veins often present themselves during pregnancy, and in such cases, they are found around the buttocks or even the vagina.

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but smaller and appear closer to the surface of the skin, as opposed to varicose veins. The reason why these are known as spider veins, is because these veins look like spider webs. In most cases, the spider veins can be found on the legs, but in some cases, they have been noticed on the face as well.

What causes varicose veins and spider veins?

As most of us know, veins carry impure blood back to the heart so that it can be purified again. Veins from the legs have to work against gravity to push blood back towards the heart and in order for the process to happen properly, there are flaps inside the veins. These flaps will ensure that the blood does not go back. However, if these flaps or valves become weak, the blood can leak back and pool in some corner of the body. When the collected blood leads to the enlargement of the veins, the condition is known as varicose veins.
Spider veins could be caused due to the collection of backed up blood, or also due to hormonal changes, injuries or even over-exposure to the sun.

How common are varicose veins and spider veins?

Both conditions are actually quite common and these are normally seen in people who are above 50 years of age.

Which factors contribute to the occurrence of varicose veins and spider veins?

There are several factors which can lead to a person developing varicose or spider veins and these include:
Medical history – If you are born with weak veins, there is the chance that you are at greater risk. Studies have shown that people who have varicose or spider veins in their family are more prone to the condition.
Increasing age – When you age, your veins become weaker, leading to them not working properly.
Insufficient movement – When you are constantly standing up or sitting down, without any breaks, your body, especially your veins have to work harder to get the blood back to the heart.
Hormonal imbalances or changes – Hormonal changes tend to occur at times such as pregnancy, puberty and also menopause. In addition, when women take medications such as birth control pills, progesterone or oestrogen, there can be hormonal changes in the body, leading to varicose veins.
Pregnancy– When a woman gets pregnant, there is a large amount of blood in the body, which can lead to the veins getting enlarged. In addition, the uterus, which is constantly growing, also puts pressure on the veins. Normally, the varicose veins start to appear during the later stages of the pregnancy and fade away within months, after the delivery.
Obesity – If you are overweight, then there is a chance that there is a constant pressure on the veins, leading to varicose or spider veins.
Over exposure to the sun – When you are out in the sun for too long, it can lead to spider veins on the nose or cheek.

Why do these conditions normally affect the legs?

In most cases, varicose or spider veins appear in the legs, because this is where the pressure is the highest. The legs support the weight of the body and then there is also the gravitational force, against which the veins have to push the blood back to the heart. Many a times, the veins in the legs are not able to handle the pressure, which is why there are leaks and hence varicose or spider veins.

Can varicose veins or spider veins be life threatening?

While spider veins or varicose veins are not really a serious health condition, they can cause pain or discomfort. Both can lead to itching, throbbing and at times, even a burning sensation. In severe conditions, spider veins can transform into varicose veins, and severe cases of varicose veins could lead to:
Bleeding – when the veins become enlarged, they are more prone to get hurt and when the same happens, the bleeding can increase.
Skin ulcers – when the blood has been blocked up for a long time, it could lead to the formation of sore or ulcers, which can be very painful.
Superficial thrombophlebitis – this could be a blood clot, which forms inside the vein, just beneath the skin and can lead to tenderness and pain.
Deep vein thrombosis – when the blood clot forms deeper inside the vein, it could lead to a pulling feeling in the calf. However, if the blood clot travels to the lungs, it could prove to be life threatening.
In the next article, we will continue to look at other aspects related to varicose veins and spider veins.


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