Sometimes, you might have noticed red and blue blood vessels visible through your skin. Have you become a little worried or embarrassed about them? Have you wondered? They are called spider veins. Let’s discuss the causes and treatments of spider vein.
The causes of spider veins
Spider veins are a mild manifestation of venous reflux disease. They are small, tangled groups of blood vessels found just beneath the surface of the skin. The veins are slightly dilated, and resemble tree branches or spider webs, and normally spread out around the legs and feet.
What are the risk factors?
Spider vein risk factors are like those associated with varicose veins, and include older age, obesity, occupations requiring extended periods of standing, hormonal changes and heredity factors (weak vessel walls). One can also develop this condition 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 could develop spider veins. Similarly, for people with a genetic history of weak vein valves, the probability of developing spider veins is also high. The same applies regarding hormonal changes, which generally occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
The exact cause of spider veins not been strictly established. Existing risk factors can be divided into two wide sub-divisions, i.e. acquired causes and congenital. In congenital causes, we have Maffucci’s syndrom, port-wine stain and hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (also known as osler-weber-rendu syndrome), among others. The acquired causes include acne rosacea, chemotherapy and lifestyle/occupation risk factors (as mentioned above).
What symptoms are associated with spider veins?
Spider veins can be painful in some cases, generally accompanying cramping and aching. They are also closely linked to heaviness in the legs, and burning, throbbing or tingling feelings. In addition, other symptoms such as swelling, fatigue and itching can also be experienced. In advanced cases, this condition can develop phlebitis, large sores and ulcers. However, spider veins are detected by their appearance in the majority of incidences.
Tests and Diagnosis
Doctors normally use non-invasive diagnostic tests to diagnose this condition. These tests are perfectly safe and painless, with no scalpels, needles or medication needing to be involved. The entire procedure is normally very brief, and generally won’t take more than one hour.
There are three main questions that doctors seek to answer with these diagnostic tests. First, they are seeking to establish any evidence of deep vein blood clots. Secondly, they ascertain whether the veins are functioning properly. And last, they test the Greater Saphenous Vein (GSV) to determine whether it is working well.
Any 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 (done 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 seeks to identify whether your 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 raised higher than your chest. This diagnostic procedure identifies vessel blockages.
After establishing the nature of your problem, the doctor will then outline the best treatment for you. There are several available options:
Sclerotherapy involves the doctor injecting a saline solution into the affected veins. The solution results in damage to the affected vessel walls, causing them to swell and seal shut. Within several weeks the scar tissue will fade away. The sclerotherapy procedure takes about thirty minutes, and has only mild side-effects. And although the injection may be a bit painful, the stinging sensation is usually gone within a few minutes.
Laser & Intense Pulsed Light
This treatment option employs the use of a specialised device that focuses laser energy to the damaged tissue. The whole procedure only takes 20 minutes, and has minimal side-effects.
Using 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 improves blood circulation in the legs thus strengthening the veins and capillaries.
*Bilberry Extract – This herbal extract stimulates 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 have shown 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 very important, and if your job requires you to stand for a long time, you should 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 choose the best 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.