Sometimes, you may have noticed red and blue blood vessels visible through your skin. Have you been slightly embarrassed or worried about them? Have you wondered? They are known as spider veins. Here, we will discuss the causes and treatments of spider vein.
The causes of spider veins
Spider veins are a mild manifestation of venous reflux disease. This means a small, tangled groups of blood vessels found just under the skin’s surface. The veins are slightly dilated, and resemble tree spider webs or branches, and normally spread out on the legs and feet.
What are the risk factors?
Spider vein risk factors are like those associated with varicose veins, and include older age, occupations requiring extended periods of standing, obesity, hormonal changes and heredity factors (weak vessel walls). One can also experience spider veins due to prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays or as a result of weak vessel walls.
Considering the risk factors, some people will be more prone to this problem than others. For example, if you work as a surgeon, a nurse or a teacher, the chances are higher that you may experience spider veins. Similarly, if there is a genetic history of weak vein valves, the probability of developing spider veins is also high. The same applies regarding hormonal changes, which mainly occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
The exact cause of spider veins is yet to be established. Existing risk factors can be divided into two general sub-divisions, i.e. congenital causes and acquired causes. In congenital causes, we have port-wine stain, Maffucci’s syndrome and hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (also known as osler-weber-rendu syndrome), among others. The acquired causes include chemotherapy, acne rosacea and lifestyle/occupation risk factors (as mentioned above).
Spider vein symptoms
Spider veins can be painful in some cases, with cramping and aching. They often result in a feeling of heaviness in the legs, and burning, tingling or throbbing sensations. In addition, symptoms such as fatigue, itching and swelling can also be experienced. In serious cases, this condition can establish ulcers, large sores and phlebitis. However, spider veins are detected by their appearance in the majority of incidences.
Tests and Diagnosis
Doctors generally employ non-invasive diagnostic tests to diagnose this condition. These tests are perfectly safe and painless, with no needles, scalpels or medication being involved. The entire procedure is normally very brief, and probably won’t take you more than an hour from start to finish.
There are three main things that doctors seek to answer through these tests. First, they seek to establish any evidence of deep vein blood clots. Secondly, they ascertain if the veins are functioning properly. Lastly, they test the Greater Saphenous Vein (GSV) to determine whether it is working well.
A competent vein specialist will always undertake this exercise before treating your condition. Some of the procedures that you can expect include:
*Color-flow Duplex Exam – This is used to evaluate the anatomy of the affected veins. It determines the direction of blood flow, openings and blockages. This procedure is also important in the process of vein mapping (needed for skin deep problems).
*Bi-directional Doppler Exam – This is an ultrasound exam used to determine the speed of blood flow and whether it pauses during normal breathing. It also identifies whether the veins are working properly.
*Photoplethysmography – Phew! Don’t let this complicated medical term intimidate you. Photoplethysmography is basically a diagnostic procedure that determines the efficiency of your calf muscle pump.
*Pressure Calf Exam – In performing this exam, you’ll be asked to lie facing upwards with your legs lifted above your chest. This diagnostic procedure seeks to identify any vessel blockages.
After establishing the specific nature of your problem, the doctor can then recommend the best treatment plan for you. Here are several available options:
This procedure involves the doctor injecting a saline solution into the affected veins. This solution then damages the affected vessel walls, causing them to swell and seal shut. Eventually the scar tissue will fade. The sclerotherapy procedure takes approximately 30 minutes, and has only mild side-effects. Although the injection may be a bit painful, the stinging sensation is usually gone within a few minutes.
Laser & Intense Pulsed Light
This treatment employs the use of a specialised device that focuses laser energy to damaged tissue. The procedure will just take twenty minutes, and has minimal side-effects.
Natural remedies can mean the difference between undergoing medical procedures or not, and are valuable alongside medical treatment. Some of the recommended herbal remedies include:
*Horse Chestnut Seed – Studies show that this seed helps to improve blood circulation in the legs thus strengthening the veins and capillaries.
*Bilberry Extract – This herbal extract is known to stimulate new capillary formation thus strengthening the capillary walls.
*Butchers Broom – This herb strengthens veins.
*Gotu Kola – A very effective extract which addresses venous insufficiency, foot swelling and water retention. It therefore provides a good solution to spider veins found on the legs.
*Distilled Witch Hazel – This is directly applied on the affected areas using a cotton ball. Numerous clinical studies show that this extract can help strengthen blood vessels.
Caution: For health safety purposes, do not start using any herbal remedies without consulting a qualified doctor.
Spider veins prevention
Two of the most important things regarding the prevention of spider veins are eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. Eating a diet higher in fresh, raw fruits and vegetables than meat and convenience food is crucial, and if your job requires you to stand for a long time, you need to regularly shift your body weight from one leg to another as well as standing evenly balanced.
To sum things up, the procedure of a spider vein removal is chosen according to several key factors. Your doctor will determine the optimum treatment options based on the results obtained from the diagnostic tests. We hope that this article will provide all the necessary guidance you need in addressing this problem.