Spider veins are blood vessels that lie near the surface of the skin and range in color from red to blue to purple. Commonly occurring on the legs, spider veins also develop on the face and other areas of the body. Some spider veins look like short, unconnected lines about the size of a hair. Others form a “sunburst” pattern that may resemble a spider web or branches on a tree.
Spider veins can occur in a small area and may be barely noticeable, or they can cover a large area of skin.
Occasionally, spider veins can cause some discomfort.
These are veins that have become enlarged or swollen. Varicose veins commonly develop in the legs and feet but can occur on any part of the body. Often varicose veins rise above the surface of the skin and have a telltale knotted appearance. Some varicose veins are flesh-colored, others are blue, green, or dark purple and sometimes varicose veins appear together with spider veins.
Varicose veins can be painful and smaller varicose veins can cause pain that ranges from dull and throbbing to a burning sensation. The larger varicose veins are, the more likely they are to cause discomfort.
Spider veins also can result from the backflow of blood. Other factors that may cause spider veins are the hormonal changes that occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy also may play a role. This seems to explain why spider veins occur more frequently in women than in men. An injury or tight garments held fast by elastic also seem to cause spider veins. In fair-skinned people, sun exposure may lead to spider veins on the cheeks and nose.
While spider and varicose veins cannot always be prevented, some lifestyle choices seem to reduce the likelihood of developing these veins. Exercising regularly, maintaining a normal body weight and eating a high-fiber diet ca help. Protecting the face from sun exposure can help prevent spider veins on the face. Elevating the legs when resting and not crossing the legs when sitting also may help. What a person wears can make a difference, too. Elastic support hose, loose-fitting clothing and low-heeled shoes can reduce the appearance of leg veins.
While generally spider veins completely disappear, new spider veins can appear in the same general area. It is possible for large veins to recur. Sometimes spider veins also recur.
Sclerotherapy is a popular treatment option that is used to treat spider and varicose veins on the legs and spider veins on the face.