Common questions about varicose veins and spider veins

We want to make sure you have the answers you need about vein issues. Below are questions we often receive. If you need additional information, please feel free to contact us at (413) 347-4767.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged, weakened, dilated veins that no longer carry blood from the legs back up to the heart effectively. As a result, blood and pressure in the legs (venous hypertension) build up from gravity.

Varicose veins commonly cause symptoms in the legs including:

  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue
  • Heaviness
  • Aching
  • Throbbing
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Swelling

These symptoms are usually worse at the end of the day but improve with rest or by elevating legs. Effective treatment of these diseased veins usually eliminates the symptoms.
If left untreated, varicose veins always worsen and may lead to major complications, such as:

  • Clots
  • Skin inflammation and even
  • Venous ulceration in later stages of disease

To prevent long-term complications, don’t ignore varicose veins and symptoms of venous hypertension.

What causes varicose veins?

Several factors contribute to varicose veins. The most important, but unchangeable, factor is genetics. A genetic tendency causes veins to weaken and wear out over time. The greater this genetic tendency, the sooner it happens.

Other contributing factors include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Estrogen/progesterone containing medications
  • Previous blood clots

In most cases, you can’t do anything to prevent varicose veins, but if you receive effective treatment early enough, complications such as blood clots and ulcers can be prevented and symptoms relieved.

How are varicose veins treated?

Technological advances and physician expertise have revolutionized venous disease treatment. Most new treatments are:

  • Non-invasive or minimally invasive
  • Performed in the office under local anesthesia with immediate recovery and no down time for patients.

Ultrasound plays a critical role in diagnosing the problem so your physician can customize treatment just for you.

What are spider veins?

Spider veins, also known as telangiectasias, are abnormally dilated blood vessels in the skin. They usually appear on the legs but can also occur on the face, chest, arms, and back.

Contrary to what many doctors think, spider veins can cause the same symptoms as much larger varicose veins, including:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Heaviness, and
  • Fatigue in the legs.

Although they may be symptomatic, spider veins are not usually a health hazard and do not lead to serious complications. In rare cases, they can bleed profusely after being injured. Otherwise, they are treated mostly as a cosmetic problem.

Spider veins appearing in unusual locations, such as the inside of the calf or ankle, can indicate a more serious vein problem. Treating these unusual spider veins may not be successful until the deeper vein problem is treated.

What causes spider veins?

Spider veins may develop in several ways:

  • Tiny pre-existing veins can enlarge and become dilated over time.
  • Your body actually grows new veins where it doesn’t need them – in the skin.
  • Pregnancy, estrogen-containing medications, and fluctuating hormones may stimulate spider vein appearance, thus, spider veins are more common in women.

Contrary to what many people believe, spider veins are not caused by crossing one’s legs or by years of excessive standing or sitting at work.

The tendency to develop abnormal veins is largely hereditary, and there is not much you can do to prevent them. Support hose, exercise, and dietary supplements are helpful for symptoms, but do not prevent new spider veins (or varicose veins) from appearing. In some cases, spider veins may be indicate larger diseased veins underneath the skin.

Dr. Basile may use ultrasound to search for any hidden diseased veins. If larger diseased veins are found, they need to be treated first or spider vein treatment will be ineffective.

Sclerotherapy is used to treat spider veins. A solution is injected into the abnormal veins causing them to shrink and disappear. Blood is re-routed into nearby healthy veins.

Immediately following treatment, spider veins may be more prominent than they were prior to treatment as they become inflamed. This resolves with time as the body absorbs the veins. The veins will “look worse before they look better”