What are Varicose and Spider Veins?

Veins are the blood vessels that carry blood back to the heart from all parts of the body. When we are standing, veins in the legs face the challenge of fighting gravity to keep the blood moving forward. To help keep blood flowing in the right direction, there are one way valves in the veins. When valves are faulty, they do not close completely and blood can leak backwards. When this happens, there is pooling of blood in the leg veins. This leads to increased pressure within the veins. Over time, this pressure can cause the veins to stretch and dilate. Veins on the surface can protrude and are called varicose veins. Smaller veins, or capillaries, that appear like red or purple webs are called spider veins.

Who gets Varicose Veins?

While no one knows what causes varicose and spider veins, our doctors know that a number of factors can increase the likelihood of developing leg vein problems. We also know that the primary factor contributing to the development of varicose and spider veins is heredity, or the genetic predisposition to weak vein walls and vein valves resulting in leg vein problems.

There are a number of lifestyle variables known to accelerate and aggravate the development of varicose or spider veins:

  • Prolonged sitting or standing
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapies
  • Constipation
  • Aging