What are they?
Similar to varicose veins, but smaller, spider veins are small blood vessels appearing near the surface of the skin, They are the small, often tangled, groups of tiny blood vessels just under the skin surface that frequently resemble spider webs (hence the name). They are generally red, blue or purple and are clearly visible, usually on the thighs, lower legs (calves, ankles) and sometimes the face. They can cover large areas of skin, but they are a cosmetic problem only, rarely causing physical symptoms.
Essentially, spider veins result from slow blood flow and weakened walls in the veins – when this happens, blood pools and an enlarged blood vessel forms. The most common causes include exposure to extreme temperature variations, use of oral contraceptives, hormonal issues particularly in women, and ageing. Other causes include extended periods of standing, obesity, pregnancy, hereditary, or an injury which may have weakened the blood vessels.
• Avoid wearing high heels and opt for low heels.
• Rest your legs and avoid standing in one place for long periods of time. Wear mild compression or support hose if your job requires you to stand for long periods of time.
• Change your position regularly when standing. Or at the very least, flex your ankles periodically, as this will help pump the blood out of your lower legs.
• Avoid crossing your legs when sitting.
• Exercise regularly – walking, climbing stairs, cycling and swimming are particularly good at keeping your calf muscles in motion which will help to prevent blood pooling in the veins of your lower legs.
• Maintain your ideal body weight; and lose weight if you are over-weight.
• Eliminate junk food from your diet and eat healthily.
• Avoid tight-fitting clothes.
How to get rid of them
While spider veins are not a health risk, nor are they painful, they can be unsightly. If they bother you, there are ways to get rid of them.
Increased circulation to the surface of the skin helps to get rid of spider veins. And again, exercise – especially walking is very helpful.
Another option is sclerotherapy, which involves the injection of various solutions into the blood vessels. This irritates the vein’s lining and the resulting inflammation makes the blood vessel collapse, allowing your body to redirect blood to healthier veins. Other options include going for laser procedures and other non-invasive or minimally invasive treatments. These are considered cosmetic procedures and are not covered by medical aid.