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Not so “itsy bitsy” spider veins

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Whether you’re a hair dresser, nurse or stay-at-home mom, you’ve got a lot to do. And your veins are feeling the strain.

Veins carry blood back to the heart. To keep blood going in the right direction, veins have one-way flaps called venous valves that prevent the blood from flowing backward. When they get weak, blood can build up and cause spider and varicose veins.

“Spider veins are small, red or blue, and close to the skin, and varicose veins are large, dark purple or blue, and bulging,” describes Constantine Andrew, MD, Virtua vascular surgeon.

Despite the difference in appearance, they share the same causes. Because most of the causes are gender specific, 40 percent of women have leg vein problems.

“Prolonged standing can weaken the valves in the leg veins and cause spider and varicose veins,” explains Dr. Andrew. “But while they are predominantly seen on the legs, they can appear anywhere on the body.”

Another cause is hormonal changes. “Puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and taking birth control pills and other \medications containing estrogen and progesterone contribute to vein problems,” explains Dr. Andrew.

Other causes include age, family history, obesity and sun exposure.

“The good news is that there are many ways to prevent spider and varicose veins,” says Dr. Andrew. He recommends wearing sunscreen, exercising, uncrossing your legs, elevating your legs when resting, and avoiding tight clothing around the waist or groin to keep veins at bay.

And if these preventative measures don’t work, treatment is available.

“While spider veins don’t pose a health risk, some women want them removed for cosmetic reasons. Varicose veins, on the other hand, can become painful and cause life-threatening blood clots,” says Dr. Andrew. “Varicose veins should be checked by a doctor.”

Depending on the type and severity, there are different removal methods.

“Varicose veins can be completely removed, injected with a chemical or treated with a laser to collapse the vein,” explains Dr. Andrew. “Once treated, those veins are gone for good. While new veins can appear, they rarely do.”