Spider Veins or Spider Naevi are networks of small, thin, dilated blood vessels that lie close to the skin's surface. They may be red, blue or purple in colour.
Common sites for Spider Veins to appear are the thighs, ankles and calves, but they can also appear on the face and other parts of the body. Spider Veins can appear in a number of different patterns. They may look like a true spider shape with a group of veins radiating out from a central point; they may have a shape like the branches of a tree; or they may be thin, separate lines. In the majority of cases, Spider Veins are a cosmetic problem only, but if they become large, they can cause heaviness in the legs, night cramps and itching.
There are a number of different causes for Spider Veins, including genetic inheritance, pregnancy, hormonal changes, weight gain, certain medications, injury and occupations that require prolonged sitting or standing. The contraceptive pill can increase the risk of these veins developing, because oestrogen can weaken vein walls.
Spider Veins develop as a result of a weakening in the vein wall or because of increased pressure in the vein system. Although these veins are part of the circulatory system, they are a small and unimportant part of it, so can be destroyed without affecting circulation.
There is no cure for Spider Veins. They can be removed by various, minor medical procedures. These include Sclerotherapy, which involves the injection of a chemical to close the blood vessels. Laser therapy can also be used to collapse small veins in the face and legs. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are advised not to undergo Sclerotherapy because Spider Veins that appear during pregnancy usually disappear within months of the birth and the effects of the chemicals used in sclerotherapy on the breast milk of nursing mothers have not been established.
Risks associated with Sclerotherapy are rare, but there have been cases of blood clots forming in veins, severe inflammation, allergic reactions to the chemicals used and skin injury that causes a small amount of scarring. Pigmentation problems, usually brownish splotches on the affected skin, may appear. These can take up to one year to heal.
People with this problem can minimise the risk of further Spider Veins developing by taking the following preventative measures to improve circulation and prevent the build up of pressure in the legs:
• Regular aerobic exercise such as walking or bike riding, which stimulates blood flow in the legs and the rest of the body.
• Wearing pressure stockings.
• Eating a high fibre diet to prevent constipation.
• Not wearing tight clothes, which constrict blood flow around the body.
• Elevating the legs at bedtime (about 6-12 inches above the heart).
• Avoiding use of the contraceptive pill.
• Avoiding crossing the legs.
• Taking dietary supplements.
• Massaging the area.
• Increase fibre in the diet to prevent constipation. Fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals provide a wide range of nutrients and fibre.
• Prevent constipation by drinking 2 litres of filtered water a day.
• Increase consumption of blueberries, cherries and other red and blue fruits. These fruits contain anthocyanids ,which help strengthen the walls of the veins.
Supplement the diet with:
• Vitamin C- 1000 mg/day
• Vitamin E- 400 IU/day
• Bioflavonoids- 1000mg/day
These supplements have been found to strengthen and tone blood vessels to improve circulation.
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Your Pharmacy stocks a range of support stockings that will help prevent pressure build up in the legs.
2. Follow the diet hints and increase fibre in the diet to prevent constipation.
3. Ask your Pharmacist for advice about vitamins and supplements that may help your condition. See the supplement section in this topic.