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What Causes Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?

By Colin Doyle, APRN at Vascular Vein Centers of Kissimmee

Have you had to wear long pants or skirts during the summer just to hide embarrassing spider veins or varicose veins on your legs?

Do your legs feel uncomfortable or restless and prevent you from standing or sitting comfortably?

Don’t put off having your legs evaluated. Here's why…

1) Varicose veins and spider veins don't go away on their own.

Spider veins and varicose veins develop when pressure overwhelms weakened or damaged vessels, causing them to abnormally dilate and expand. Typically, without correction, this pressure and damage will not simply go away and unattractive bulging veins will persist.

The exception to this rule is veins that develop during pregnancy. These veins may improve 6 to 12 months after delivery, however, these veins have been strained and the condition will often return with time.

2) Symptoms will get worse over time

As pressure increases and vessels expands, pressure is placed on surrounding vessels. This increased pressure results in further dilation of vessels or the development and extension of more varicose veins and spider veins. What more, with time these vessels can start leaking causing swelling (edema) and place pressure on surrounding tissues causing pain (venous pain). 

3) Without treatment, veins can cause permanent discoloration of the skin and other visible changes 

If veins are left untreated, damaged vessels can cause chronic skin changes which may never completely go away. Increased pressure and dilation of vessels can lead to skin inflammation (venous eczema), brown discoloration (hemosiderin or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation), thickening and hardening of the skin (lipodermatosclerosis), deformity of the legs (bottle neck deformity), large sores (venous ulceration), and scars (atrophic blanche).

What's more, chronic swelling associated with venous insufficiency can overwhelm and damage the lymphatic system, resulting in the development of phlebolymphedema. Phlebolymphedema can cause swelling to extend into the feet, making it more difficult for you to wear shoes and increasing the risk for falls and skin infections.

4) Early treatment can save time and money

 Again, veins are typically considered a progressive condition which without early treatment, get worse over time. Uncontrolled, pressure and dilation may extend into surrounding vessels, causing further damage which would require more procedures to correct and result in more time and money for treatment.

5) Varicose veins increase the risk of developing a blood clot

 As varicose veins developed, they become enlarged and twisted. These vessels don't transport blood back to the heart as they are supposed to. Instead, the blood can stagnate and possibly coagulate or form clots. These clots can extend into the vein inside the muscle and there, potentially dislodge and become an embolism. This embolism can potentially go to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) or to the brain (embolitic stroke).

 In the lungs, the embolism can block blood flow and impair the oxygenation of blood which could result in a myocardial infarction or heart attack as the body tries to compensate. In the brain, the embolism can obstruct blood flow to vital and sensitive areas. These areas can become hypoxic and result in a cerebral vascular accident or stroke.

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