Sometimes, you may have noticed red and blue blood vessels visible through your skin. Did you become a bit worried or embarrassed about them? Do you wonder what they are? They are known as 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 are usually 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 advancing age, occupations requiring extended periods of standing, obesity, hormonal changes and heredity factors (weak vessel walls). One can also experience this condition because of weak vessel walls or from exposure to ultraviolet rays.
Considering the risk factors, some people will be more prone to this problem than others. For example, if you work as a surgeon, a teacher or a nurse, chances are high that you might suffer from this condition. Similarly, if there is a family history of weak vein valves, the probability of developing spider veins is also high. The same applies to hormonal changes, which mainly occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
The exact cause of spider veins is yet to be established. The existing risk factors can be divided into two general sub-divisions, i.e. acquired causes and congenital. 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 discussed above).
Spider vein symptoms
Spider veins can be painful in some cases, with cramping and aching. They are also closely linked to heaviness in the legs, and burning, tingling or throbbing sensations. Also, symptoms such as itching, fatigue and swelling can also be experienced. In serious cases, this condition can develop large sores, phlebitis and ulcers. However, spider veins are noticed by their appearance in a majority of incidences.
Tests and Diagnosis
Doctors usually use non-invasive diagnostic tests to diagnose this condition. These tests are perfectly safe and painless, with no needles, scalpels or medication needing to be involved. The entire procedure is normally very brief, and probably won’t take more than one hour.
There are three main things that doctors seek to answer with these diagnostic tests. First, they are seeking to establish any evidence of deep vein blood clots. Secondly, they discover if the veins are functioning properly. And last, 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 (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 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 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 will then recommend the right treatment plan for you. There are several available options:
Sclerotherapy involves the doctor injecting a saline solution into the affected veins. This solution results in damage to the affected vessel walls, causing them to swell and seal shut. Within several weeks the scar tissue will fade. The sclerotherapy procedure takes around 30 minutes, and has only mild side-effects. Though 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 affected tissue. The whole procedure takes only 20 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 improves 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 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 by several key factors. Your doctor will choose 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.