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What Causes Spider Veins on Legs?

There are many people who are afflicted with spider veins and are left wondering what they are exactly and what causes them.

Spider veins on the legs are thin, thread-like blood vessels that are visible on the surface of the skin. Spider veins may appear to be red, purple or blue and, as the name indicates, resemble a spider’s web. They can make a person uncomfortable and some people will tell you they can be a little painful. Spider veins are not the same as varicose veins although many people do confuse the two conditions.

A Common Condition

The presence of spider veins over a large or small area of skin is common with around 50% of women in the US suffering from some kind of vein disorder.

Causes Of Spider Veins

It is thought that the cause of spider veins may be the result of backing up of blood in the vessels; they are also caused by sun exposure, hormonal changes, skin trauma and injury.

There are also a number of risk factors for the development of both spider veins and varicose veins. Some of these risk factors include:
  • Family history – spider veins are thought to have a genetic cause
  • Occupations that necessitate a lot of time standing – factory workers, medical professionals, teachers and hair stylists for example
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal changes due to puberty, pregnancy or the menopause
  • The use of some oral contraceptives
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Any history of blood clotting
  • Increased pressure caused by constipation, the wearing of clothing such as girdles and abdominal tumors
  • Age – As we age, the valves in the circulatory system no longer work as efficiently as they once did

Why Are Spider Veins Usually In The Legs?

The weight of the body exerts pressure on the legs, as will gravity. This coupled with the tough task of transporting blood back to the heart for oxygenation means that the blood vessels in the legs are under more pressure than elsewhere.


Spider veins rarely pose a serious threat to health although they may feel uncomfortable with a burning or itching sensation. The main problem associated with spider veins is that the patient may feel they are unsightly and wish to have them removed.


There are various treatments for spider veins available, intended mainly to improve the appearance of spider veins, relieve any symptoms and prevent any possible complications or worsening of the condition.
  • Compression stockings – available over the counter or with a prescription these stockings are intended to create useful pressure on the legs
  • Sclerotherapy – this is probably the most common and effective treatment for spider veins and can be carried out in the doctor’s office with no need for any anaesthesia. A liquid chemical is injected into the affected veins causing the blood flow to stop and the veins to become scar tissue spider vein treatments for legs below
  • Surface laser treatments
  • Surgery
  • Endogenous techniques that may also be carried out in the doctor’s office
  • Pin stripping
  • Ambulatory phlebectomy
While no treatment is without the risk of complication, procedures to alleviate the symptoms, causes and appearance of spider veins are now relatively straightforward and easily carried out by a medical professional.
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