Here’s something we’ve all probably typed into Google at some point: “How to prevent varicose veins.” Below, find out how the biggest reasons varicose veins show up and the best ways to treat them.
You’ve just lightly misted yourself with makeup finishing spray, scrunched up your freshly-curled hair, and have slipped on your heels. As you stand in the mirror, checking yourself out in satisfaction, something on your leg catches your eye. Upon closer inspection, it’s exactly what you feared: a purple-hued splotch of varicose veins. Great!
Here’s the thing: Varicose veins (cord-like and puffy looking) and spider veins (thin and wiry looking) are actually incredibly common. In fact, 25% of women and 15% of men have them somewhere on their body. In other words, you’re not a weirdo for having them, and nobody is judging you for them, either. Today we’re breaking down the basics of varicose and spider veins to discuss what they are, who’s prone to developing them, and how to prevent them.
What are varicose veins and how do you get them?
“Varicose veins and spider veins typically appear in adulthood, however adolescents may also develop them if it is genetic,” says Nisha Bunke, a doctor who specializes in veinous diseases at La Jolla Vein Care, Center for Advanced Vein Treatment. “Anyone can get them, but common risk factors include genetics, age, pregnancy, hormones or birth control, and female gender.”
Another contributing factor is being on your feet all day long, which is something that teachers, doctors and nurses, flight attendants, and restaurant servers must do. “People who work in these sorts of professions should wear graduated compression socks to reduce their chances of getting varicose veins,” says Dr. Bunke.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, these socks “work by exerting the greatest degree of compression at the ankle, with the level of compression gradually decreasing up the garment. The pressure gradient ensures that blood flows upward toward the heart instead of refluxing downward to the foot or laterally into the superficial veins.”
We know what you’re thinking: “I don’t want to wear grandma socks,” and we totally get it. However, there are many options that look athletic and even stylish! Also, they can be worn discreetly under pants should you not want the world to know you’re wearing them. Under Armour and Nike make compression socks, and Vim & Vigor have managed to make them look pretty darn cute, too.
Another major factor for varicose vein development is carrying excess weight and not exercising consistently, says Bunke. Being overweight puts a lot of pressure on your veins, causes blood to pool inside the veins. Over time, your veins become weaker, which creates a bulging effect. A reduction in weight can promote better blood flow, and exercise boosts circulation throughout the entire body, thereby minimizing pooling and bulging.
Broken capillaries in the face are different from varicose and spider veins, notes Bunke. These are typically caused by sun damage, or are hormone related. Should you want to remove them, she recommends laser treatment.
Treatments for varicose veins:
Varicose and spider veins are ultimately not harmful, but they can feel itchy or uncomfortable. Bunke also says that they may be an underlying sign of something more serious, especially if you notice things start getting a lot worse.
“The presence of spider veins and varicose veins may indicate an underlying vein condition called venous insufficiency,” she says. “Over time, venous insufficiency can cause a worsening appearance of varicose and spider veins, ankle swelling, skin discoloration and eventually in the most severe cases, leg ulceration. Many people will have a combination of these types of conditions. For all leg vein conditions, ultrasound examination is important to determine a person’s specific treatment plan, and an ultrasound allows the doctor to see underlying veins not visible to the naked eye.”
Ultimately, you should consult your physician if your veins are causing you any sort of discomfort, or if they get progressively worse. On that note, varicose and spider veins will not go away on their own, and no over-the-counter remedy is worth your money.
“There are no at home remedies to decrease their appearance,” says Bunke. “However, some skin cover-ups such, as Dermablend, can temporarily hide their appearance. Also, there are many minimally invasive treatments for venous disease, such as injecting a medication in the vein called sclerotherapy, using heat or laser energy to close the vein called radio-frequency or laser ablation, removing the veins through micro-incisions called phlebectomy, or injecting a medication through a tiny rotating wire called ClariVein. All are safe and effective.”
Varicose and spider veins are very common. Many contributing risk factors are out of our control, but staying active and within a healthy weight range can greatly reduce your risk of developing them. Compression socks can also help. Once a varicose or spider vein appears, it’s there to stay unless you undergo a minimally invasive procedure. You can, however, temporarily conceal them with cosmetics.