10 Ways to Treat & Prevent Spider Veins & Varicose Veins
How to Get Rid of Unsightly Veins
Varicose Vs. Spider Veins: The Difference
Varicose veins are treacherous-looking dark blue, red, or flesh-colored veins that appear enlarged, twisted and bulging beneath the skin (usually on the legs). They can actually lead to aching pain, itching, and swelling in the feet and ankles. And while less common, they may indicate a more serious circulatory problem like a blockage in deeper veins (deep vein thrombosis).
While people often colloquially refer to unsightly veins in their legs as “varicose veins,” it is more likely that they have spider veins (which are often found on the legs, feet and face).
“Spider veins are quite common and you can be reassured that they do not necessarily reflect a major underlying problem in most patients,” explains dermatologic surgeon Dr. Joseph Sobanko.
Spider veins are much smaller and milder, appearing as very thin red or blue lines or squiggles, often forming a web-like pattern along the surface of the skin.
Common Causes + Risk Factors
Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves in your legs, which cause blood to collect and get backed up in your veins rather than flow properly to your heart. This causes the veins to become large and twisted.
While genetics and aging contribute to varicose veins, subjecting your legs to increased pressure can increase your risk of developing the unsightly veins.
This means that being overweight or pregnant puts you a risk, but so too does standing or sitting for long periods of time—especially if you cross your legs. All of these things can restrict proper blood flow from your legs to your heart and make you a target for varicose veins.
When pregnant, you may notice varicose veins popping up not just on the legs, but also around the nether regions and buttocks. The good news is that they often improve around post-delivery month three.
Spider veins are also caused by the backup of blood, so the risk factors for developing them are similar to the risk factors for varicose veins. Spider veins can also form as a result of sun exposure, injuries or hormonal changes.
Because there appears to be a hormonal component to the strength of veins, menopause, hormone replacement therapy and taking birth control pills can all increase your risk of developing spider veins and varicose veins.
Sclerotherapy is considered the gold standard for reducing the appearance of varicose and spider veins. During the procedure, which is fairly common procedure and can be done in your doctor’s office, a liquid chemical is injected into the vein to close it off. The vein then fades after a few weeks.
Depending on the severity of your case, the doctor may have to repeat the procedure in 4 to 6 weeks, but all in all it is considered highly effective in the medical community.
Remember, this is a cosmetic procedure so insurance will not cover it and treatments can be up to $1000 per session.
Surface laser therapy may be effective at fading spider veins and very small varicose veins. The procedure works by sending light through the skin to the vein, which results in the vein slowly fading and ultimately disappearing from the skin’s surface. It usually take two to five treatments to make spider veins in the legs disappear.
This may be an option for those needle-phobes, but know that lasers can be quite painful and often do not work as well for all skin types and colors.
Though reserved for more severe causes of varicose veins, surgery can be a highly successful method for removing painful, large varicose veins. The surgery works by tying shut or removing completely the problematic veins. As larger veins that are deeper in the leg work the most to keep circulation going there is no risk that your blood won’t reach your heart once these veins are removed.
Though it won’t remove the veins, you can use sunless tanner to treat their appearance. Just as sunless tanner is great at hiding other beauty flaws (like cellulite), it can help camouflage ugly veins and give the appearance of healthy, more even-toned skin. (Note, we recommend sunless tanner instead of a real suntan, because sun exposure can cause more spider veins—not to mention skin cancer, accelerated aging, and skin discoloration.)
Read here for the best tips to apply sunless tanner.
If you’re looking to cover up those veins in pinch, go for concealer. Apply a little to the problem areas and blend with a makeup sponge or brush. Use a yellow-based concealer, like the one you’d apply for under-eye circles. Brush a little powder on top to set the camouflage and you’re good to go.
Or simply apply spray-on body/leg makeup to your legs for all-over airbrushed look. While it’ll provide less coverage, you can also help conceal the veins with tinted moisturizer, which has the added benefit of providing you extra moisture to keep your skin healthy.
Although genes and hormones can contribute to varicose and spider veins, simple lifestyle changes can help prevent new unsightly veins from appearing and keep existing ones from getting worse.
Spider veins can be caused by sun exposure, which is often the reason why some fair skinned ladies may experience tiny spider veins that appear as broken capillaries on their faces, particularly around the nose. The solution: sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.
Poor circulation, which can cause spider and varicose veins, is often the result of being sedentary. So get up and move around! Find an exercise routine you enjoy and stick to it. Nurse Midwife Evelyn Resh recommends swimming as it promotes circulation while taking pressure off your legs.
And, at the very least, if you’re stuck at a desk all day (or in a car/on a plane), get up and walk around for five minutes every hour or so.
Working out not only helps promote circulation, it will also help you maintain a healthy weight, which will also reduce your chances of developing varicose and spider veins.
Uncross Your Legs
This is not a beauty myth: Sitting with your legs crossed can promote the formation of spider and varicose veins, as it constricts the blood flow to and from your legs. To counteract this, sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor, and your spine aligned with your hips (more great posture tips here).
Need to cross your legs? Try doing it at the ankle rather than at the thigh.
Take Breaks from Standing
Just as you want to avoid sitting for long periods of time, try to avoid standing for long periods as well. If you don’t have that luxury, though, and have to be on your feet all day, make sure you’re wearing supportive shoes, take breaks to sit down, and prop your feet up when you can (to facilitate circulation). This will not only help take the pressure off your legs, but your joints and back will thank you.
This may be an item you never thought you’d sport, but if you have to stand on your feet for long periods of time, you may want to consider compression socks/stockings.
This little fashion gem (kidding) can actually work wonders, helping to keep the blood from pooling in your legs and feet and thus help prevent spider veins, varicose veins, and other much more serious venous disorders. They’re just like stockings that use super tight elastic (you can get them flesh colored and wear them under your pants and shoes to be discreet). Compression stockings also can help you feel relief from heavy, aching legs after standing on your feet all day.
References: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/varicose-spider-veins.cfm; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/varicose-veins/DS00256
More On ChickRx: