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    Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

    Varicose veins are large, raised, swollen blood vessels that twist and turn. They usually develop in the legs and can be seen through the skin.

    Spider veins are smaller, red, purple, and blue vessels that also twist and turn. Spider veins are easily visible through the skin, as well. They are typically visible on the legs and face.

    Causes of Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

    A number of factors predispose a person to varicose veins and spider veins. These include:

    • Heredity
    • Occupations that involve a lot of standing, such as nurses, hair stylists, teachers, and factory workers
    • Obesity
    • Hormonal influences of pregnancy, puberty, and menopause
    • The use of birth control pills
    • Postmenopausal hormonal replacement
    • A history of blood clots
    • Conditions that cause increased pressure in the abdomen, such as tumors, constipation, and externally worn garments like girdles.

    Other reported causes include trauma or injury to the skin, previous vein surgery, and exposure to ultraviolet rays.

    Other Risk Factors for Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

    Varicose veins and spider veins develop more often in women than in men. They increase in frequency with age. An estimated 30% to 60% of adults have varicose veins or spider veins.

    Symptoms of Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

    Many people with varicose veins complain of pain, described as an aching or cramping in the legs. Other common symptoms include tiredness, restlessness, burning, throbbing, tingling, or heaviness in the legs. Pain from these veins is usually relieved by elevating the legs or by wearing support hose.

    In women, symptoms may be worse during certain parts of the menstrual cycle or during pregnancy. Less common is swelling, ulcers and a darkening of the skin, especially in the ankle region. Occasionally, varicose veins can form a painful blood clot with inflammation of the vein, a condition called thrombophlebitis.

    Treatment Options for Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

    There are seven major forms of treatment for varicose veins and spider veins:

    1. Support stockings. The most conservative approach is simply to wear properly-fitting support hose, especially when the veins cause painful or uncomfortable symptoms. These stockings can generally be purchased at any surgical supply store and at some pharmacies. They come in below-the-knee, above-the-knee, and pantyhose styles.

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