Spider veins are small and thin lines that develop near the surface of the skin, most commonly on the legs or face. These veins may be slightly raised or flat and blue, red or purple in appearance.
Our veins contain one-way valves that help blood flow in one direction. Spider veins form when the valves inside our veins become damaged or weakened, which results in the blood being unable to flow in the right direction. Over time, the blood pools inside the vein and causes it to bulge, which allows it to be seen on the skin surface.
Spider veins should not be confused with varicose veins. While both occur due to weakened valves, varicose veins are generally larger and deeper than spider veins. They also have a more lumpy or twisted appearance.
Spider veins affect more women than men, and the risk increases as we grow older. It’s estimated that around 30% to 60% of adults have spider veins. Some of the causes of spider veins include:
- Pregnancy: Increased blood flow and extra weight from the baby produces more pressure in the veins. Some women record their spider veins disappearing on their own after pregnancy.
- Genetics: Research has shown that over 90% of people with spider veins have a family history of this condition.
- Hormones: Estrogen can weaken the valve in the vein. Hence, birth control pills and hormonal treatments for menopause can increase the risk of spider veins.
- Extended sitting or standing: When a person remains in the same position for a long time, their veins work harder to pump blood, resulting in spider veins.
- Sun Exposure: UV rays from the sun can damage the skin and result in broken blood vessels.