Many people have questions about the unsightly “Spider veins”, or more properly, “varicose veins”. What are varicose veins? They are the blue surface veins one often sees on the legs of pregnant women and older people. These veins are not uncommon in other groups of people; however, they are more common in women than in men.
A varicose vein is any vein that is abnormally swollen and twisted. There are two general causes for varicose veins. The first is simply high blood pressure. The extra stress the high blood pressure applies to veins can cause the vascular wall to swell over time. The second most common cause has to do with valve damage. This can be from a congenital defect or disease such as thrombosis.
Increased blood pressure can be caused by an abdominal tumor, an ovarian cyst, pregnancy, or obesity. The veins in pregnant women are pressure induced from the developing fetus pressing on key veins and arteries. The condition is usually temporary, but may leave some women with the permanent bluish-purple veins commonly seen spidering along their calves and thighs.
While not cosmetically pleasing most people with varicose veins feel no change in their body. Occasionally, such veins will cause pain or swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet. A simple solution to relieve the stresses of the resulting swelling is edema socks, an orthopedic stocking that rises completely over the calf and provides excellent support.
The veins, if uncomfortable or unsightly enough, can be treated by injecting a fluid that inflames the vein’s walls. The affected area is then tightly bound for about six weeks, by which time the vascular walls scar, stick together, and “shrink” to a normal size. Removal of varicose veins via surgery involves a technique named “stripping”. A wire is stretched under the skin along the length of a bad vein. The vein is cut, cauterized at the ends, and pulled out with the wire.