Did you know that thread veins, also known as spider veins, will affect over 30% of people during their lifetimes? This condition is also more likely to occur in women than men. Here is what you need to know about this condition.
Thread veins manifest a web of blue and red blood vessels on the skin’s surface. They typically occur on the legs and face, and usually vary in size. However, it is important to note that this condition is harmless but can indicate underlying vascular issues. They are also a cosmetic concern due to their appearance which can be less than slightly. Therefore, you must visit your physician if you notice any thread veins to avoid any complications.
Varicose Veins and Thread Veins (Spider Veins)
Varicose veins are enlarged, gnarly-looking veins that might appear blue, flesh-coloured, or red. They typically like bulging and twisted cords that rise above the skin’s surface. The veins are often found inside the leg, back of the calves, and thighs. During pregnancy, however, they may appear around the buttocks and vagina.
Spider veins, on the other hand, are the smaller versions of varicose veins. Additionally, they come closer to the surface than their larger counterparts and are also red or blue. Their short-jagged lines give them the appearance of spider webs or tree branches. They are also found on the face and legs and can cover both large or small skin sections.
Causes of Thread Veins
Varicose veins are the consequence of damaged or weak valves in the veins. See, the heart usually pumps oxygen and nutrient-filled blood to the entire body via the arteries. Veins, on the other hand, are what transport your blood from the body and back to the heart.
As such, when your leg muscles contract, they force your blood up towards the heart and thus counteract gravity. Your veins are equipped with valves that function as one-way flaps which prevent the blood from flowing back down as it moves up from your lower extremities.
Therefore, if a valve weakens, blood will leak back into that vein and collect there. The term for this particular condition is venous insufficiency. Consequently, the collected blood enlarges the vein thus making it varicose.
What are the risk factors for thread veins?
Age: As you accumulate years, your valves may progressively get weaker to the point that they no longer work well
Medical History: Being born into a family that has a history of varicose veins increases your risk of getting thread veins. Over half of individuals with this condition also have family members with thread veins.
Hormonal Changes: These may occur during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. Taking medication that contains progesterone and estrogen such as birth control pills has been known to contribute to the formation of thread veins.
Pregnancy: When you are pregnant, your body increases the amount of blood flowing through your system which might cause your veins to become bigger. Additionally, the enlarging uterus places further stress on the veins.
However, thread veins associated with pregnancy should improve within three months of delivery. Nevertheless, more spider and varicose veins will appear with each subsequent pregnancy.
Obesity: Being overweight places extra pressure on your veins which can turn them varicose.
Not moving: Standing or sitting for extended periods might force your veins to overwork themselves as they try to pump blood back to the heart.
Sun exposure: Prolonged sun exposure can be detrimental to fair-skinned people as it might cause spider veins on their cheeks.
Why do thread veins feature predominantly on the legs?
Most thread veins typically occur on the legs. This is due to a combination of factors such as gravity, body weight, and having to transport blood from the bottom to the top.
As such, when compared to veins in other parts of the body, leg veins are exposed to a lot of pressure which may prove to be too much for their valves at some point.
Symptoms of thread veins
These veins are often noticeable as they are on the skin’s surface. Other thread veins symptoms in the legs may include:
- An aching pain in the legs that gets worse after standing or sitting for extended periods
- Cramping or throbbing
- An irritated or itchy rash
- Restless legs
- A darkened skin
How dangerous are thread veins?
Even though spider veins are rarely a serious issue, they do cause discomfort in the legs. However, for the most part, spider veins cause a burning or itching sensation. On other occasions, spider veins may indicate blood backup deep inside the tissue.
Varicose veins may at times not cause issues but can also create a lot of discomfort, and a throbbing aching pain. In other instances, they can lead to health complications such as:
- Skin ulcers or sores due to the long-term backing up of blood. These ulcers and sores are painful as well as being hard to heal.
- Bleeding. Due to being enlarged, the vein’s skin becomes thin and thus easily susceptible to injury.
- Deep vein thrombosis which refers to a blood clot in a deeper vein. It causes the sensation of a ‘pulled calf’ as well as pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area.
Should you seek medical treatment?
You need to consult a vascular specialist if:
- The vein becomes tender, swollen, painful, and warm
- The skin on the calf and ankle changes colour or becomes thick
- You notice a rash or sores on the leg or ankle
- The discomfort in your leg is too much
- One of the veins begins bleeding
- The appearance of the veins affects your self-esteem.
You need to seek the guidance of a specialist if you notice or feel any thread veins to avoid further complications.
How are thread veins diagnosed?
Your doctor might diagnose your vein problem during a physical exam. They may also need to incorporate extra tests to rule out the possibility of other conditions. Additionally, you might undergo an ultrasound to view your vein structures as well as checking for blood flow and clots. This test utilises sound waves to create images of structures inside your body.
In some cases, you may have a venogram. This is a test that gives a more detailed look into your veins.
Treatment of thread veins
These conditions can be treated through lifestyle changes as well as medical treatments. The aim of these treatments is usually to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and to improve the appearance of the veins.
Treatment options typically include:
These are useful in that they apply appropriate pressure on the sick veins. They fall under three categories:
- Support pantyhose stockings. These offer the smallest amount of pressure and usually apply general pressure rather than where it is needed most.
- OTC gradient compression hose which gives a little more pressure. They can be purchased from drugstores or in medical supply.
- Prescription-strength gradient hose which provides the greatest amount of pressure.
This is the most widely applied procedure for thread vein treatment. Here, your vein specialist injects a fluid into the injured vein’s wall. This liquid causes the walls of the vein to swell, stick to each other, and seal shut.
This effectively stops the flow back of blood. Within weeks, the vein will turn into scar tissue and eventually fade off. This treatment doesn’t require anaesthesia and is done as an outpatient procedure. You should resume your activities right after the treatment.
The same vein might need more than one sclerotherapy treatment but cases vary.
Surface laser treatments:
Laser procedures are also effective at treating thread veins. This procedure involves projecting pulses of laser beams onto the vein. This effectively destroys the vein and alleviates the condition. The scar tissue will heal within weeks.
Laser treatment can be painful and that’s why you will need a local anaesthesia. Nevertheless, you can resume your activities after treatment.
This option, although invasive, is good for treating large thread veins. Here the problem veins are usually sealed shut and removed from the leg completely via incisions on the skin.
Note that removing these veins does not affect blood circulation in the leg.
Being an invasive technique, you will have to go under general anaesthesia. Additionally, it might take up to a month to recover.
Thread veins may not only be unsightly but can also result in complications. Fortunately, advancements in treatment technology have ensured that ridding yourself of this issue not to be a problem.
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