Are you observing some small red lines along your feet and other areas of your body? Do they seem like small blood vessels? Well, these are spider veins that appear on the surface of the skin. Spiders veins or medically known as venulectasias or telangiectasias are small dilated blood vessels commonly seen on the cheeks, nose area, chin, thighs, lower legs and on the ankle areas.

Spider veins are the mildest form of venous insufficiency. Spider veins are also like varicose veins only that they are smaller and less painful. Telangiectasias appear like tangled small blood vessels similar to a spider web; thereby, the name spider veins.

Spider veins are also commonly reddish to blue or purple in color covering small to large areas in the skin. Women are more affected by spider veins with a female to male ratio of 3:1. Although spider veins are not harmful, they can be cosmetically disturbing. This makes people experiencing them, especially women, seek dermatologic or surgical care.

Causes of Spider Veins

Spider veins can be caused by a lot of factors, which can either be acquired or congenital. These include:

Acquired Factors

Spider veins that develop during the later stages in life are usually caused by acquired factors such as:

• Increased blood pressure in the veins
When pressure on the veins increase, it leads to distention in the veins and eventually losing the elasticity of the small blood vessels. This usually happens on the dependent areas of the body such as the legs. Pregnancy contributes greatly to the development of spider veins because of the increased blood pressure and blood volume. Those who sit or stand for prolonged periods of time may also suffer from spider veins.

• Environmental damage
Extreme exposure to cold or sun exposure may also lead to spider veins because of the damage in the integrity of the skin.

• Physical trauma
Physical trauma to the skin also causes the development of spider veins such as in cases of surgical incisions and contusions.

• Treatments for chronic conditions
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy for cancer as well as application of topical corticosteroids also contributes to the development of spider veins.

Congenital factors

Some congenital conditions may have spider veins as a sign such as the presence of hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, nevus flammeus and ataxia telangiectasia.

Although spider veins may be caused by various reasons, the most common reasons for spider veins during adulthood are pregnancy and poor dynamics such as prolonged sitting and standing.

Treatment of Spider Veins

Spider veins are commonly diagnosed by inspection, but those who suffer from large areas of telangiectasia may require ultrasound to check the extent of circulatory problem in the area. Since spider veins are relatively smaller than varicose veins and do not bulge above the skin, spider veins that are not related to major problems in circulation do not require any treatment. Nevertheless, women, seek medical treatment because of the cosmetic disturbance that the spider veins cause. In this line, treatments for spider veins include:

• Use of support stockings
Although wearing anti embolic stockings does not remove spider veins, they significantly improve circulation in the legs and prevent further development of spider veins.

• Sclerotherapy
Sclerotherapy is by far the single most effective means to remove spider veins. This involves the injection of a sclerosant to harden and shrink the small veins. After several days of treatment, the spider veins usually disappear.

• Laser
Laser therapy involves the use of light beam to seal and dissolve the spider veins.

Although spider veins can be removed cosmetically, the most effective management is prevention. Make sure to employ leg exercises regularly and avoid prolonged sitting and standing.