I think I have a healthy fear of spiders. Not irrational, by any means, but just enough to avoid a potentially venomous encounter. But when it comes to spider veins on my legs, that’s a full-blown phobia. Just one look at my Nana’s gnarled blueish legs sends a shiver down my spine, because I know it’s in my genetics.
And I’m not alone. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health estimates that nearly 55 percent of women are dealing with some type of vein issue. Even worse, these little buggers can produce problems that turn from cosmetic to painful at the drop of a hat.
So, what can we do about spider veins? Can anything quell my creepy-crawly phobia? Let’s find out!
What causes spider veins?
Physiologically speaking, spider veins appear due to a weakening of subdermal valves. Think of spider veins like varicose veins’ smaller cousin. Vascular surgeon for Capitol Vein & Laser Center, Garth Rosenberg, MD, explains that spider veins are thin blue blood vessels beneath the skin that can be a result of poor circulation.
Spider veins can also appear as a precursor to varicose veins. Rosenberg describes varicose veins as enlarged veins where blood has pooled, and are the result of valves that have stopped functioning properly.
Spider veins don’t always lead to varicose veins, but they can be an early warning sign. Varicose veins can lead to bigger and more serious problems, like deep vein thrombosis and debilitating aches and pains.
The medical community has identified several factors that contribute to spider veins forming. Some causes we can’t do much about, but there are others that we can address to do our best to prevent them from appearing.
Causes Out of Our Control
- Genetics. It looks like the fear that strikes me when gazing upon my Nana’s spider veins is warranted: spider veins are genetic. While heredity is a pretty solid indicator, it isn’t a guarantee that I’ll see those same spider veins my grandmother did.
- Hormones. The wild changes and shifts in hormones that occur during pregnancy, puberty, and menopause can all contribute to the formation of spider veins.
- Blood Clots. At the root of this valve degeneration is poor circulation. So it’s not a surprise that those with a history of blood clots have an increased propensity to spider veins.
Causes In Our Control
- Obesity. No surprises with this cause, being overweight puts a massive amount of strain on our bodies. The damage it inflicts on the circulatory system can lead to spider and varicose veins.
- Hormones. Just like the hormones that surge during pregnancy, puberty, and menopause, elective medications can cause an influx of these spider vein enablers. Birth control and postmenopausal hormone replacement are common causes.
- Lifestyle. Those who don’t get enough exercise are more likely to experience spider veins. In addition, occupations that require long periods of standing, like nurses and hair stylists, can contribute to weakening valves.
Can you prevent spider veins?
It depends. If the cause is genetics, then there isn’t anything you can do to prevent spider veins from creeping into view. (Thanks, Nana!)
If spider veins don’t run in your family, then you can run to prevent them. As if we needed another reason to exercise. Getting active and working out improves circulation, which can prevent the veins from forming.
What can you do to deal with spider veins?
While the prevention front for spider veins is a bit dismal, the treatment side is only getting better. From your drug store to the doctor’s office, there’s an option that can help reduce the appearance of unsightly vein issues.
- Diet & Exercise. A healthy lifestyle is the ultimate treatment for spider veins. Especially for those who are overweight or obese, changing your lifestyle can be all that’s needed to deal with spider veins.
- Compression Stockings. On the benefits of this technique, the Mayo Clinic details that compression stockings “steadily squeeze your legs, helping veins and leg muscles move blood more efficiently.” Wearing these is often suggested before undergoing more invasive and expensive treatment.
- Sclerotherapy. With this spider vein treatment option, a solution is injected into the affected veins which causes them to scar and close off. Veins begin to fade several weeks after treatment. You don’t need to be put under anesthesia, and this in-office procedure is oftentimes covered by insurance.
If the spider veins have advanced to varicose veins and are causing serious health problems, there are further, more invasive treatment options. But when it comes to spider veins, women usually see visible results from adjusting their lifestyle and wearing compression stockings.
Since I’m genetically predisposed to spider veins, I initially thought prevention was out of the question. But, after seeing that an active lifestyle is not only a preventative measure, but a treatment as well, it became clear what I needed to do to deal with my spider vein phobia. The answer is an active lifestyle. I love that solution!
If you’re not active now, it’s completely daunting to think of a ‘lifestyle change.’ Which couldn’t be further from the truth. Changing your lifestyle and exercising can be a blast, and that’s what drove me and IdealShape to create the IdealShape Up Challenge. It’s a 12 week total meal and workout plan. No gym. No weigh-ins. No pricey food. Just the first step on the journey to your ideal. I’ve incorporated my favorite circulation-supercharging workouts with the challenge, which help me squash those spider veins before they appear. Check it out and let me know what you think!