Spider veins are easy to identify by the vivid bluish-purple veins that seem to appear overnight, forming a web-like shape that’s surprisingly noticeable considering the veins are so tiny. Though they’re often viewed as a cosmetic problem, spider veins can be a warning sign of more serious venous or health problems.
At Vein Health Clinics, we specialize in helping patients with all aspects of spider veins. You can count on our expertise whether you want unattractive veins permanently eliminated, or you need to rule out hidden vein problems.
Spider vein basics
Spider veins develop in tiny capillaries that are close to the skin’s surface. Like all veins, these small blood vessels are equipped with one-way valves that keep blood going in one direction. As blood flows back to your heart, the valve opens to let the blood go through. Then the valve closes to prevent blood from flowing back in the opposite direction.
When the valves stop working because they’re weak or damaged, blood backs up and pools in the veins. As a result, the veins enlarge and become visible, creating spider veins.
Spider veins can occur anywhere on your body, but they typically appear on your face and legs. Risk factors for spider veins include:
- Family history of spider veins
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause
- Prolonged time sitting or standing
- Being overweight
You’re also more likely to develop spider veins as you get older.
Health concerns of spider veins
Spider veins alone do not represent a health concern. They seldom cause symptoms, although some patients report that the area is sometimes itchy or achy, especially when the spider veins are in their legs.
If you look up spider veins online, you’ll often find information that mentions spider veins, but then goes on to describe symptoms such as muscle cramping, swelling, and pain — severe symptoms that only occur when you have varicose veins. Varicose veins can also lead to complications, so if you have any questions about your veins or symptoms, give us a call and we’ll be glad to help.
Spider veins may be early signs of venous disease
Spider veins don’t cause problems on their own, but they can be an early sign of other serious vein problems. Since all the veins in your body are connected in an extensive system, spider veins can reflect unhealthy changes in larger veins. For this reason, spider veins may be a red flag that you have a circulation problem in other veins.
Venous conditions such as deep vein thrombosis and chronic venous insufficiency increase the pressure in the affected vein. Then that high venous pressure causes other problems. For example, it can force fluids from the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues, creating a venous stasis ulcer.
The change in pressure also stretches and weakens the one-way valves. Spider veins in your legs may reflect abnormally high pressure in larger veins before other symptoms of the underlying problem become apparent.
If you develop a cluster of spider veins around your ankle, a condition called corona phlebectatica, you should come in for an examination. Ankle spider veins are a definite sign of serious chronic venous insufficiency.
Spider angioma masquerades as spider veins but signals systemic disease
Like spider veins, spider angiomas are often harmless. However, they’re also symptoms of systemic diseases such as cirrhosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or an imbalance of thyroid hormones. The appearance of multiple spider angiomas signals chronic liver disease in about 95% of all patients.
Spider angiomas resemble spider veins, except they have a red spot at the center with reddish weblike extensions that radiate out from the central spot. You’ll also have reddened skin surrounding the area, which is different from spider veins.
If you want treatment for spider veins or you have any concerns about visible veins, call one of our Vein Health Clinics offices in Oviedo, Apopka, or Winter Haven, Florida. Or while you’re here on the website, you can schedule an appointment online.