You've noticed blue, red or protruding veins on your legs…. what goes on inside the body to lead to the formation of these veins and can and how are they treated?
What's happening below the skin that can't be seen to the naked eye?

Your body continually works hard to ensure optimal blood circulation - this keeps  your body running smoothly. Arteries circulate oxygen-rich blood from your lungs around the rest of your body, it's the veins which push the blood back to your heart against gravity using a network of one-way valves and surrounding muscles. As you walk the calf muscles act like a pump and compresses the deep veins pushing the blood back up the leg. Superficial veins rely entirely on the ability of the valves to prevent backflow to your feet. This is where people with varicose veins have a problem.

How does this create varicose or spider veins?

In varicose veins the valves, which are supposed to open and close consecutively, do not work properly.  When the valves do not function properly, the blood begins to pool in the vein, which makes it difficult for the muscles to push the blood up for legs. Instead of flowing consecutively from one valve to the next, the blood continues to pool in the vein, increasing arterial venous pressure and the increasing likelihood of congestion while causing the vein to bulge and twist. Because superficial veins have less muscle support than deep veins, they are more likely to become varicose or spider.

What’s the difference between varicose and spider veins?

While both Spider and Varicose veins occur mostly on the legs, their appearance is the easiest way to tell them apart.

Spider veins (Telangectasias) are smaller in comparison to varicose veins. They have a diameter between 1 mm to 3 mm and generally appear in small areas just underneath the surface of the skin. They are usually purple, blue or red in colour and have an appearance like a spider’s web or even a linear pattern. Spider veins are often caused by the backup of blood, hormone changes, exposure to the sun, and injury.

Varicose veins on the other hand are much larger due to the pooling of blood in the vein. They are also very bulky in appearance, often similar to thick ropes that protrude and bulge pushing the surface of the skin upwards.

Will I get spider or varicose veins?

There are many factors that presidpose a person to varicose veins and spider veins. Varicose and spider veins are seen more often in women than in men. Some of the more common factors that induce varicose veins include:

  • Genetics . Family history is one of the most common reason for weak vein valves which can inevitably increase your risk. Approximately half of all people who have varicose veins have a family member who has also had them.

  • Weight Gain. Excess weight and obesity can put extra pressure on your veins which may lead to varicose veins.

  • Hormones. During puberty, pregnancy, and menopause women often develop varicose veins due to changes in the production of progesterone and other key hormones. Find out more about these changes during pregnancy and menopause.

  • Immobility. Sitting or standing for a long time may force your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart. This can be a bigger problem if you sit with your legs bent or crossed.

  • Age. Often the older you are the more common the condition, over time the valves in your veins may weaken and not work as well.

  • Sun exposure. This can cause spider veins on particularly on the face of those with fair skin.

An Ultrasound examination is always performed at the clinic on all patients to assess the competency of all the superficial and deep veins in your leg due to the is a close relationship between the development of spider veins and varicose veins. Up to twenty percent of people with spider veins have underlying incompetent Saphenous veins and ultrasound allows us to detect this. Failure to detect underlying incompetence of superficial veins or saphenous veins leads to much greater complication rates in the treatment of surface veins

AuthorNicholas Kemp