Compression for Spider Veins
What are Spider Veins?
Spider veins, medically known as telangiectasias, are a small network of vessels (threadlike veins) that are close to the skin’s surface. The network of vessels is often as delicate as a spider’s web, which is how they get their name, but they can also resemble tiny sunbursts, branching trees, or may be distributed in a linear fashion.
Spider veins are typically more prominent on the back and sides of the thigh and just below the knee, and occur mostly in women, although they are also seen in men.
Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins
Spider veins and varicose veins are not the same — and one does not lead to the other. While varicose veins are large, swollen, and occur singularly on the legs, spider veins are delicate and tend to develop in clusters. They are, however, caused by similar factors.
Possible Causes of Spider Veins
Exactly what happens in the body to produce spider veins isn’t known for sure, though there are theories that address possible causes:
- Spider veins are fed by underlying varicose veins. Too small or embedded too deeply to reach the skin’s surface, these underlying varicose veins disrupt circulation, causing spider veins to grow above them.
- Spider veins are little arteries that have joined the network of veins nearest the skin surface. Because arteries are highly pressurized and the surface veins have low pressure, the combination of the arterial blood (oxygenated blood flowing from the heart) with the venous blood (deoxygenated blood flowing toward the heart) causes spider veins to be visible.
Symptoms of Spider Veins
Symptoms associated with spider veins may include:
- Dull, generalized aching (especially after standing for long periods)
- Throbbing pain
- Night cramps
- Heaviness in legs
- Complaints may worsen with menstruation and warmer weather
Spider veins do not pose a serious health threat. Though they can cause localized burning pain, aching and discomfort, spider veins are primarily a cosmetic problem.
Spider veins usually take on one of three basic patterns:
- They may appear as thin separate lines
- They may be arborizing and will resemble tiny branch-like shapes
- They may appear in a true spider web shape with a group of veins radiating outward from a dark central point
Linear spider veins are commonly seen on the inner knee, whereas the arborizing pattern often appears on the outer thigh in a sunburst or cartwheel distribution.
Spider veins appear to be hormonally induced and often are associated with pregnancy and menstruation. Typically, spider veins cause aching discomfort, a heavy feeling, and legs that tire easily, with symptoms often worsening as the day continues. Relief comes with walking or elevating the legs. And yet, there are many that complain of no symptoms at all.
For most patients, the way to tell if you have spider veins is to simply look at your legs for signs of spider veins.