Spider veins are usually small. You may notice these damaged veins appearing on the surface of your legs or ankles. In most cases, spider veins are not harmful or painful and are typically treated for cosmetic reasons rather than medical reasons.
The appearance of spider veins is usually a thin formation of lines, branches or webs, often referred to as thread veins. Spider veins are different than varicose veins, are smaller, generally raised and swollen with blood. Spider veins on the ankles are very common, but they can also be embarrassing if you have them. There are a variety of treatment options available to eliminate these veins.
Causes of Spider Veins
Spider veins can appear on your ankles when the valves found inside of your veins are not working correctly. Blood is carried back to your heart through your veins. Your veins have a one-way valve to stop your blood from flowing in the wrong direction. Once your blood has passed through the vein, the valve is supposed to close. There is an issue if your valve is damaged or weakened.
In this instance, your blood may be unable to flow in the right direction. The result is often a pooling of blood inside of your vein. As time passes, a bulge can form inside of your vein and start to branch out. The result is the formation of spider veins. Spider veins can also result from excess pressure or the bursting of tiny blood vessels.
Unless your spider veins are the result of a serious medical condition, there is no reason for you to be concerned. Most people who have spider veins never have any symptoms. Unfortunately, this type of vein can bleed.
The specific cause of spider veins remains unclear. What is known is there are numerous factors potentially contributing to their development including:
- Exposure to the wind and sun
- Skin trauma
- Surgical incisions
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Medications for widening blood vessels
- Using topical or oral corticosteroids for a long period of time
The risk of developing spider veins on the ankles increases during pregnancy. This is because a lot of pressure is placed on the blood vessels as the child develops. Pressure is also placed on the ankles and leg veins due to the additional weight of the baby. In some cases, spider veins will disappear after the baby is born. Sometimes they become permanent and treatment is necessary.
Spider veins are fairly common for people with fair skin with long-term damage from the sun. You can develop spider veins anywhere on your body, but the most noticeable locations are on the skin. Certain mucous membranes are also visible. The development of spider veins can occur during menopause or while using birth control pills due to hormone changes and hormonal therapies.
Spider veins are much more common in older adults. This is because as the body ages, the blood vessels become weaker. The veins in your ankles and legs are supported by the valves located in your veins. As your body ages, these veins begin to lose strength and are unable to pump your blood in an upward direction. Spider veins affect fewer men than women.
Roughly 90 percent of all individuals with spider veins have a history of them in their family. If you regularly sit or stand for long periods of time, your risk of developing spider veins increases. This is because the veins located in your legs must work harder for your blood to be pumped toward your heart while you are standing or sitting in the same position for long periods of time.
If you are overweight, the additional weight may place more pressure on the veins in your legs resulting in spider veins on your ankles. The valves in the veins can be weakened by estrogen during hormonal treatments or through hormonal birth control. If you have ever had damage to your vein or a blood clot, your valves may have become damaged and unable to work correctly.
The sun emits ultraviolet light. This can result in skin damage causing spider veins or broken blood vessels. Although this is more common on the face, it can be an issue for the legs and ankles as well.
Spider veins are common even if you do not have any health issues. The cause is usually aging or sun damage. If your spider veins appear to be severe or are enlarged, you should make an appointment with a doctor. If you have a history of spider veins in your family or experience lesions or bleeding, you should talk to your doctor about treatment.
These types of symptoms can be an indication of a serious condition. If your doctor suspects you have an underlying condition, additional tests will most likely be recommended including:
- Ultrasound scans
- MRI scans
- Blood tests
- Liver function testing
- CT scans
The most common types of spider veins develop in the thighs and legs. The development can also occur anywhere on your body including your ankles and feet. Spider veins are fine, often with a dark appearance. The development is in clusters on the surface of your skin similar in appearance to a spider’s web. Reducing these veins is important because they can turn into varicose veins if left untreated.
Spider veins are very common in women past the age of having children. According to recent estimates, 60 percent of all adults are suffering from spider veins. There are many different risk factors, but the development occurs due to a weakness in the wall of your veins. Pools of blood then result leading to the development of spider veins.
In some cases, spider veins on your ankles can be effectively treated with a combination of daily massage, rest and relaxation. In certain instances, more aggressive treatment is necessary such as laser therapy. The treatments for spider veins are detailed below.
The simplest and easiest type of treatment for spider veins located on your ankles is wearing compression stockings. Compression stockings are essentially strong support hose designed to compress dilated spider veins. When your ankles are squeezed by the support hose, your blood begins to move up your legs and toward your heart. Compression stockings can help decrease the swelling in your ankles.
This is accomplished by decreasing the pressure in the veins while improving circulation in the blood. This is what results in the formation of spider veins in your ankles and feet. You can purchase compression stockings in most local drug stores. The different types available include:
- Support pantyhose only offer light pressure, but you can find them in most stores. Some types of support pantyhose are available online.
- Gradient compression socks and stockings offer medium pressure for your calves, ankles and feet. You can usually find them at pharmacies and specialty stores. You can find a large selection of gradient compression socks and stockings online.
- You can receive the most pressure for your legs, ankles and feet with prescription compression stockings. You can only purchase them with a prescription. Your doctor will determine which strength and size you need including footless varieties. Not everyone can wear prescription compression stockings. This includes anyone with heart issues or heart failure in the past.
Elevating the Legs
When you are relaxing or sitting, elevate your feet until they are above the level of your heart. Your heart will start pumping faster resulting in the circulation in your spider veins increasing. The result is a decrease in size. Whenever possible, use a recliner. If you do not have one available, sit sideways on your sofa or in bed and use cushions and pillows to elevate your ankles and feet.
Avoid Prolonged Standing
Avoid standing for long periods of time whenever possible. When you stand, the pressure on your calves and valves increases. This results in the swelling responsible for the formation of spider veins. If you are unable to sit, lift your heels above the floor by standing on the tips of your toes.
This will improve circulation to your spider veins and add strength to your calf muscles. Perform this exercise between 20 and 30 times before relaxing for two minutes. Repeat this exercise three or four times.
Massaging with Lotion
Use lotion to massage your feet and rub your leg. The best lotion for relaxing your legs is massage oil or contains St. John’s wort. Rub the lotion in a circular motion as your massage your ankles and legs. An occasional hard squeeze of your ankles and feet forces the blood from your spider veins.
This method decreases the blood in your feet and ankles, helps push your blood back toward your heart and reduces the number of spider veins in both your ankles and feet.
One of the most effective methods to get rid of your spider veins is laser therapy. The laser can completely eliminate or shrink your veins. Lasers have been in use for roughly 20 years so you know the procedure is well tested and safe. There are two different types of laser therapy, endovenous and light therapy. Endovenous treatment involves the insertion of a laser fibre into your spider veins through your skin.
As the spider vein lining is heated from the laser’s intense heat, it will collapse. The spider vein then disappears from your skin. A concentrated pulsed light is used for laser therapy below the surface of your skin on the spider veins. Your blood vessel is heated and closed by the beam of light. Your blood vessel will become smaller and can completely disappear.
During sclerotherapy, you receive a sodium chloride injection directly into your spider vein. Your blood vessel lining is irritated by this substance, causing it to swell then stick together. This prevents the flow of blood in the area. After a few weeks, your blood vessel becomes scar tissue. This enables it to fade away from your skin. This procedure is both inexpensive and fairly simple to perform.
The sclerotherapy procedure can decrease swelling resulting in a shrinkage of your vein. In order to obtain the results you want, more than one treatment may be necessary. The closure system treatment is very similar. A substance is injected into your infected veins. Due to the stickiness of the substance, your veins are closed and unable to receive any blood flow.
Just like with the sclerotherapy procedure, your vein will disappear or fade over time. Additional treatments may be necessary before you are satisfied with the outcome. Both of these treatments can be performed by a variety of healthcare professionals including:
- Vein specialists
- Cosmetic surgeons
All of the professionals listed above can perform both the closure system or sclerotherapy procedure in their office because anaesthesia is not generally required for either one. Once your procedure is complete, you will most likely need to wear compression stockings for a few days or weeks.
You should notice your spider veins starting to disappear after your procedure. Keep in mind this process can take a maximum of six weeks. To completely eliminate your spider veins, you may need multiple treatments.
Endovenous Laser Therapy
Also referred to as EVLT, this procedure is effective for treating both small varicose veins and spider veins. A small incision is made by a healthcare professional in your affected vein prior to the insertion of a laser fibre. Heat is applied from the laser directly to your vein. This results in a collapse of your vein. Your vein will require between a few months to one year to completely disappear. You will need local anaesthesia for this procedure.
Although performed for larger varicose veins, most doctors will not operate on a spider vein. This is because spider veins are small enough to respond properly to all of the treatment options described above.
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