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Unsightly veins

Spider veins are small superficial blood vessels that appear red or blue in the skin. They commonly occur on the legs, but are also found on the face or other areas of the body.


These dilated blood vessels may be short, unconnected lines, each about the size of a large hair, or connected in a "sunburst" pattern. They may look like a spider web or a tree with branches. Spider veins can occur in a small area where they are not very noticeable, or they can cover a large area of skin and be very unattractive.


Larger dilated blood vessels called varicose veins may be raised above the skin surface. They may occur with spider veins.


Patients can have pain that ranges from dull and throbbing to a burning sensation. The larger vessels are more likely to cause discomfort, although smaller blue veins have been shown to cause pain as well.


If spider veins are bothersome, they can be treated with laser or by injection of a special solution that can destroy them. They can disappear or become much smaller. There is about an 80 - 90 percent chance for a greatly improved appearance.


What causes these blood vessels to become visible?

The cause of spider veins is not completely known. They seem to run in families. Identical twins can be affected in the same area of the body and to the same extent. The condition rarely occurs as part of an internal disease.


Spider veins appear in both men and women, but more frequently in women. Female hormones may play a role in their development. Puberty, birth control pills, pregnancy, or hormone replacement therapy may contribute to them. They may also appear after an injury or as a result of wearing tight girdles or hosiery held up with elastic bands. Varicose veins occur mainly from genetic susceptibility.


Spider veins on the nose or the cheeks of fair-skinned people may be related to sun exposure.


Can spider veins be prevented?

Spider veins cannot always be prevented. Wearing support hose may minimize unwanted blood vessels from developing. Keeping one's weight at a normal level and exercising regularly may be helpful, as well as eating a high-fiber diet and wearing low-heeled shoes. Sun protection is important to limit the number of unwanted vessels on the face.


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