Spider veins are small, damaged veins that can be visible on the surface of your skin. While they can develop anywhere, they are most likely to appear on your legs or face. While they are usually not harmful or painful, spider veins can ruin the cosmetic appearance of your skin.
Vein doctors can treat spider veins to lessen the appearance of these red squiggly lines, but it is always better to prevent spider veins than to treat them. Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent the appearance of spider veins before they develop.
What are Spider Veins?
One of the best ways to prevent spider veins is to know what causes them. Spider veins are a condition affecting blood vessels, which carry blood to various parts of the body. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart and lungs to the rest of the body, while veins carry blood from the far reaches of the body back to the heart and lungs.
Gravity helps the arteries move the blood downward from your heart to your feet, but gravity works against veins as they carry blood back upwards. To overcome the effects of gravity, veins have tiny one-way valves that prevents blood from flowing backwards, or refluxing, into the lower legs or other areas. The valves can malfunction or wear out, though, and allow blood to reflux and even accumulate in the lower part of the vein. Pressure from accumulating blood presses against the weakened walls of the vein and causes the tiny blood vessels to grow larger and more visible.
Sun exposure can also cause spider veins by breaking down collagen and blood vessels sitting just beneath the surface of your skin. These spider veins are most likely to appear on noses, cheeks, and other areas exposed to the sun.
Prevent Spider Veins in 11 Easy Steps
- Assess your risk for developing spider veins
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Wear compression stockings
- Take a break
- Wear sunscreen and avoid sun exposure
- Avoid tight clothing
- Don’t stay in the hot tub or sauna too long
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Exercise regularly
- Elevate your legs
- See a dermatologist
Certain factors can increase your risk for developing spider veins. Assessing your risk factors for spider veins can help you take steps to reduce their appearance. Spider vein risk factors include:
Age – the risk of developing spider veins can increase with age, as the aging process causes wear and tear on the valves inside your veins
Gender – women are more likely to develop spider veins, as hormonal changes associated with menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause can relax the vein walls, which allows them to stretch and become more visible
Use of certain medications – hormone treatments, such as birth control pills, can increase your risk of spider veins
Pregnancy – the volume of blood inside your body increases during pregnancy to support the growing fetus; increased blood volume can also put pressure on the inside of veins to cause the appearance of spider veins
Family history – if members of your family has spider veins or varicose veins, you have a greater chance of developing these vein problems too
Being overweight or obese – carrying around excess weight increases pressure on the veins to inhibit blood flow and to make the blood vessels more visible
Standing or sitting for long periods – blood does not flow well when you remain in one position for a long time
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight to reduce the pressure of excess weight on your veins.
Compression stockings are stretchy socks that fit snugly to squeeze blood out of your lower legs and upwards, towards your heart. Wearing compression stockings are a smart preventive measure if you have a personal or family history of spider veins or varicose veins, or have other risk factors for spider veins.
Avoid sitting or standing in one position for a long time. Get up and walk around once ever half hour or so.
Apply sunscreen every day, particularly on your face and lower legs, to prevent spider veins. Wear sun-protective hats and clothing whenever you go outdoors for extended periods.
Wearing clothing that fits too tightly around your waist, pelvis or legs can restrict blood flow and may increase your risk of developing spider veins.
The excessive heat of a hot tub or sauna can cause swelling of the veins, thereby increasing your risk of spider veins.
Alcohol speeds up your heart rate, which causes your heart to pump blood faster. This sudden influx of blood places greater stress on your veins to increase your risk of developing spider veins in your lower legs and in your face.
Inactivity can allow blood to pool in the veins of your lower legs; pumping your calf and leg muscles help push blood upwards out of your lower legs. Regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight to reduce your risk of developing spider veins even more.
Raising your legs while sitting or lying down can help prevent the blood from refluxing and pooling in your lower legs.
Certain conditions, such as rosacea, can increase your risk of spider veins. These conditions can cause the skin to become flushed, or reddened, due to enlarged veins. Your dermatologist can suggest treatment options to keep both your skin condition and spider veins under control.
For more information about spider veins, consult with your dermatology team at Center for Dermatology & Laser Surgery.