What Causes Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins can be caused by a myriad of things but are most common with:

  • Age

  • Hereditary

  • Lifestyle

  • Weak valves in the legs

There are some aggravating factors that can make varicose veins worse if you are predisposed to them. These include pregnancy, obesity and surgery on the legs.

Recent studies have shown varicose veins are the most common early sign of vein disease, affecting 1 in 3 adult women, almost 50 percent of adult men and may lead to further health conditions without proper treatment.


Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are raised and have a ropey look to them. Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling

  • Bulging / Lumpy veins

  • Achiness / Pain in the legs

  • Itchiness / burning in the legs and feet 

  • Cramping

  • Fatigued or heavy-feeling legs
  • Swollen ankles
  • Restless legs
  • Venous ulcers

Some people do not suffer from any symptoms at all. Varicose veins are most common in the legs and feet. 


Treatments for Varicose Veins

Major advances in image-guided, diagnostic ultrasound and minimally invasive ablation technologies has led to the development of procedures such as EVLT – where the vein is permanently closed using LASER energy. Oftentimes following EVLT, patients may require Ambulatory Microphlebectomy or Sclerotherapto complete treatment.



It is important to know that varicose veins are not always preventable and can be usually caused by heredity. Sometimes the causes can be from certain lifestyle patterns. We have put together a simple infographic on a few ways to help prevent this condition from forming or worsening. 




What causes spider veins?

Spider veins are caused when the valves in your veins malfunction. The valves in your veins prevent the blood from flowing backwards when it is returning to the heart. If the valves malfunction, the blood begins to pool up and spider veins form. Below are a few causes of spider veins:

  • Obesity
  • Sun Exposure
  • Prolonged sitting or standing
  • Injuries
  • Heredity
  • Hormonal Changes such as pregnancy or menopause

What is the medical term for spider veins?

In medical terminology, spider veins are referred to as telangiestasias or sunburst varicosities. However, even though doctors seldom use these terms when discussing the condition with their patients, they are good terms to know since you may see them in your medical paperwork.


Are spider veins the same as varicose veins?

Yes and no. They are caused by the same underlying problem but they involve different blood vessels. Spider veins form when valves malfunction in the very tiny veins near the surface of the skin. Varicose veins form when valves malfunction in the larger veins deeper down that are surrounded by fat and connective tissue. Spider veins usually do not bulge out whereas varicose veins often do. Spider veins are less likely to hurt and advance to a more serious condition than varicose veins, though they can be symptomatic.


What are some common symptoms of spider veins?

You may experience a variety of symptoms related to spider veins, even if there are no red or blue veins visible on the skin. You might have an ache, burning, or itching in your legs or ankles, which might feel worse when you have been standing or sitting for a while. Your ankles or legs may feel swollen or heavy. In some cases, the skin around the spider veins could look darker than the surrounding skin. Sometimes spider veins are asymptomatic.


Treatments for Spider Veins

Sclerotherapy is a nonsurgical treatment procedure in which spider veins directly with an injection. The purpose is to remove these unsightly veins with a FDA-approved solution that irritates the lining of the vessels. This will cause the veins to close and fade away in 4-8 weeks. The solutions used in the center are FDA approved and are more advanced than the old saline solution that was painful and led to skin ulcers.


Are spider veins dangerous to your health?

In the vast majority of cases, the answer is no. However, both spider veins and varicose veins can potentially lead to a more serious condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI can get progressively worse and even lead to blood clots, inflammation and ulcers.  


Do spider veins form only in the legs?

No. While it is true that spider veins are more common in the legs, they can also form in other areas of the body such as the cheeks, breasts and the nose.


Will crossing your legs cause spider veins?

One of the most widely circulated medical opinions on the internet is that crossing your legs causes spider veins. The theory is that crossing your legs compresses the veins in your thighs and calves and this causes spider veins. The truth is spider veins are caused by malfunctions in the vein valves, not by compression of the veins. However, crossing your legs can deform the valve resulting in its malfunction so you should keep in mind. So the answer is, though no one can confirm, you should avoid crossing your legs.


Does standing cause spider veins?

People who stand for long periods of time are at higher risk to develop both spider veins and varicose veins in their legs. This is because when you are standing, the valves in the veins in your legs have to work harder than when you are sitting or lying down. This is due to the fact that gravity makes the flow of blood back up your leg to your heart more difficult in the standing position.


Do men get spider veins?

There is a myth that only women get spider veins but this is not true. In fact, more than forty percent of all men over the age of sixty have spider veins. Spider veins are sometimes hidden on men since they tend to have more hair on their bodies.


Do vitamin K creams or other "infomercial" creams make spider veins disappear?

No. While vitamin K is good for the skin, it will not make spider veins disappear. In fact, no type of cream or lotion will get rid of spider veins. There are some cosmetics that are used to "cover up" spider veins but obviously this is temporary.


Does getting a tan help get rid of spider veins?

No. This myth probably started because when you get a tan, the darker skin makes it more difficult to see spider veins. In actuality, solar radiation can lead to spider veins so that in time, once the tan fades, they appear to have worsened.


Can elevating your feet help get rid of spider veins?

Elevating your feet will not help you get rid of spider veins. However, elevating your feet above your thighs when you are sitting down or above your heart when you are lying down will help prevent more spider veins and varicose veins from forming.


What is the average age when spider veins first appear?

While some people get spider veins in their twenties, they become much more common in middle age. They tend to form earlier in women because of pregnancy and/or because of hormonal changes during a woman's monthly cycle that cause water retention. Water retention in a woman's legs puts more pressure on the vein valves.


What Causes Venous Ulcers?

Venous ulcers are caused by a condition called venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency is characterized by faulty valves in the veins. These veins normally allow blood to flow back into the heart, but instead, they are blocked or damaged, preventing the blood from returning to the heart and allowing it to pool in the legs. A venous ulcer is a wound that develops on the leg when the veins have problems returning blood to the heart. The blood pools in the legs and can cause leaking into the surrounding tissues. These ulcers tend to appear on the lower leg, particularly on the inside between the knee and the ankle. The ulcers are painful and heal over time but often recur.


Symptoms of Venous Ulcers

The first symptom most patients notice when they have a venous ulcer is discoloration. The skin on the legs turns dark red or a purplish-blue over the ulcer. The skin can become very dry, looks and feels thin and begins to itch. Itching may cause the ulcer to erupt into an open, draining wound. The affected leg may feel achy and heavy, and may cause discomfort when the patient stands for a long period of time. If the ulcer takes a long time to heal, the skin over the ulcer may change permanently. The skin may become permanently thickened and hard. This condition is called lipodermatosclerosis. Alternatively, the skin may take on a bumpy texture or become permanently stained a reddish-brown color.


Risks of Having Venous Ulcers

Venous ulcers should be treated to prevent pain, discomfort, and permanent skin changes. In addition to these problems, over time, bacterial infections can set in, particularly if the venous ulcers prompt the patient to itch the skin. Bacteria enter through small breaks in the skin caused by itching. In severe cases, the bone can also become infected.


Treatment Options for Venous Ulcers

Contact us if you believe you have a venous ulcer. Dr. Zarcone can treat the venous ulcer in one of several ways. One common way to treat this condition is to treat the varicose veins in the area with Ambulatory Microphlebectomy and to eliminate any venous reflux with EVLT. During treatment, small punctures are made in the leg to remove the affected vein(s). This prevents chronic venous ulcers from recurring because it removes the damaged vein. The remaining healthy veins will take over the work once the damaged vein is removed. Dr. Zarcone may also recommend a nonsurgical treatment such as fitting you with compression stockings, recommending an exercise program to stimulate proper blood flow in the legs or recommend a topical steroid cream to relieve the swelling and irritation. Occasionally an unna boot is required.


When to Seek Medical Care

If you notice that your venous ulcer has begun to drain pus or if open sores develop over the ulcers, seek medical attention. You may have an infection that requires immediate treatment. In time Dr Zarcone will have you follow up with treatments to remove the affected vein or to reduce the discomfort and swelling that the ulcers can cause, as well as work with you to prevent the ulcers from recurring.

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