Varicose veins (commonly known as spider veins) are swollen, twisted veins that you can see just under the skin. They usually occur in the legs, but also can form in other parts of the body. Hemorrhoids (vascular structures in the anal canal which help with stool control) are a type of varicose vein.
Varicose veins occur when healthy vein walls become weak and the vein enlarges. Blood can “pool” or collect inside the vein. Varicose veins are related to increased pressure in the leg veins or defective valves in the veins.
Most varicose and spider veins appear in the legs due to the pressure of body weight, force of gravity, and task of carrying blood from the bottom of the body up to the heart.
[Read:Diagnosis of Varicose Veins]
Compared with other veins in the body, leg veins have the toughest job of carrying blood back to the heart. They endure the most pressure. This pressure can be stronger than the one-way valves in the veins.
The exact cause of varicose veins is unknown, but there are a number of factors that contribute to the development of varicose and spider veins. Risk factors for varicose and spider veins include:
• Heredity or family history of varicose veins
• Advancing age
• Prolonged standing (especially for people who work in occupations such as nurses, beauticians, teachers, factory workers and others)
• Being overweight
• Hormonal influences during pregnancy
• The use of birth control pills
• Post-menopausal hormonal replacement therapy
• Prolonged sitting with legs crossed
• Wearing tight undergarments or clothes
• A history of blood clots
• Injury to the veins
• Conditions that cause increased pressure in the abdomen including liver disease, fluid in the abdomen, previous groin surgery, or heart failure
Other reported factors include topical steroids, trauma or injury to the skin, previous venous surgery and exposure to ultra-violet rays.
Apart from being visible on skin, spider veins can show some other symptoms as well:
• Aching pain that may get worse after sitting or standing for a long time
• Throbbing or cramping
• Rash that’s itchy or irritated
• Darkening of the skin (in severe cases)
• Restless legs
[Read:Symptoms of Varicose Veins]
Varicose and spider veins may require medical treatment. If varicose veins make walking or standing painful, you should ask your doctor for advice. You also should call your doctor if a sore develops on or near a varicose vein or if your feet or ankles swell.
In some cases, varicose veins can be harmful to your health when they are associated with these conditions:
• Venous stasis ulcers that result when the enlarged vein does not provide enough drainage of fluid from the skin. As a result, an ulcer (open sore) may form.
• Fungal and bacterial infections may occur as the result of skin problems caused by fluid built up (edema) in the leg. These infections also increase the risk of tissue infection (cellulitis).
• Thrombophlebitis: Inflammation of the vein due to blood clot formation.
• Venous haemorrhage: Bleeding in the vein.
Complications are more likely when varicose veins are the result of a problem or disease in the deep veins or in the perforating veins which connect the deep and superficial veins, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or chronic venous insufficiency.
Ask your doctor if you have an increased risk of developing any of these conditions.
Read more articles on Varicose Veins.