• 15 July 2019
  • Dr. Obinna Nwobi

Spider veins are easy to identify by the vivid bluish-purple veins that seem to appear overnight, forming a web-like shape that’s surprisingly noticeable considering the veins are so tiny. Though they’re often viewed as a cosmetic problem, spider veins can be a warning sign of more serious venous or health problems.

At Vein Health Clinics, we specialize in helping patients with all aspects of spider veins. You can count on our expertise whether you want unattractive veins permanently eliminated, or you need to rule out hidden vein problems.

Spider vein basics

Spider veins develop in tiny capillaries that are close to the skin’s surface. Like all veins, these small blood vessels are equipped with one-way valves that keep blood going in one direction. As blood flows back to your heart, the valve opens to let the blood go through. Then the valve closes to prevent blood from flowing back in the opposite direction.

When the valves stop working because they’re weak or damaged, blood backs up and pools in the veins. As a result, the veins enlarge and become visible, creating spider veins.

Spider veins can occur anywhere on your body, but they typically appear on your face and legs. Risk factors for spider veins include:

  • Family history of spider veins
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause
  • Prolonged time sitting or standing
  • Being overweight

You’re also more likely to develop spider veins as you get older.

Health concerns of spider veins

Spider veins alone do not represent a health concern. They seldom cause symptoms, although some patients report that the area is sometimes itchy or achy, especially when the spider veins are in their legs.

If you look up spider veins online, you’ll often find information that mentions spider veins, but then goes on to describe symptoms such as muscle cramping, swelling, and pain — severe symptoms that only occur when you have varicose veins. Varicose veins can also lead to complications, so if you have any questions about your veins or symptoms, give us a call and we’ll be glad to help.

Spider veins may be early signs of venous disease

Spider veins don’t cause problems on their own, but they can be an early sign of other serious vein problems. Since all the veins in your body are connected in an extensive system, spider veins can reflect unhealthy changes in larger veins. For this reason, spider veins may be a red flag that you have a circulation problem in other veins.

Venous conditions such as deep vein thrombosis and chronic venous insufficiency increase the pressure in the affected vein. High venous pressure causes other problems. For example, it can force fluids from the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues, creating a venous stasis ulcer.

The change in pressure also stretches and weakens the one-way valves. Spider veins in your legs may reflect abnormally high pressure in larger veins before other symptoms of the underlying problem become apparent.

If you develop a cluster of spider veins around your ankle, a condition called corona phlebectatica, you should come in for an examination. Ankle spider veins are a definite sign of serious chronic venous insufficiency.

Spider angioma masquerades as spider veins but signals systemic disease

Like spider veins, spider angiomas are often harmless. However, they’re also symptoms of systemic diseases such as cirrhosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or an imbalance of thyroid hormones. The appearance of multiple spider angiomas signals chronic liver disease in about 95% of all patients.

Spider angiomas resemble spider veins, except they have a red spot at the center with reddish weblike extensions that radiate out from the central spot. You’ll also have reddened skin surrounding the area, which is different from spider veins.

If you want treatment for spider veins or you have any concerns about visible veins, call one of our Vein Health Clinics offices in Oviedo, Apopka, or Winter Haven, Florida. Or while you’re here on the website, you can schedule an appointment online.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Spider Veins?

Spider veins, also called telangiectasias, are clusters of tiny, red blood vessels that form on the skin’s surface. Common locations for these colorful markings are the legs, face, and chest. Having spider veins isn’t usually painful or uncomfortable, but it might make you feel self-conscious.

What Causes Spider Veins?

Genetics, pregnancy, hormonal changes, obesity, and prolonged standing or sitting induce spider veins. Liver disease and blood clots may cause them. Spider veins may result from any disease that strains or weakens vein walls.

What Causes Spider Veins on Ankles?

Spider veins on the ankles are often caused by standing or sitting for long periods of time, as well as wearing high heels or tight shoes. These activities can put pressure on the veins in the ankles, causing them to become enlarged and more visible.

What Causes Spider Veins on Legs?

Spider veins on the legs are also caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, pregnancy, hormonal changes, obesity, and standing or sitting for long periods of time. They can also be caused by trauma or injury to the legs, as well as exposure to the sun.

Is Spider Angioma Dangerous?

Spider angiomas are mostly harmless and untreated. If you see them, see a doctor since they may suggest liver illness or a hormone imbalance. If the angioma changes in size, shape, color, discomfort, or bleeding, visit a doctor.

Why Do Spider Veins Happen?

When vein valves malfunction, the result is spider veins. When healthy, these valves prevent blood from flowing backward; when injured, however, blood pools in the veins, making them more extensive and more prominent. As mentioned earlier, those are only a few possible causes.

When To Worry About Varicose Veins?

If you have discomfort, swelling, skin changes, leg soreness, or ankle ulcers, varicose veins may be the cause. If the veins are larger than 1/4 inch or the leg is heated or sensitive, visit a doctor. Long-sitting or family history may increase the risk. If you’re worried, see a doctor.

About The Author

Dr. Obinna Nwobi

Dr. Obinna Nwobi is a board certified vascular surgeon, who chose to practice in an underserved area in Florida. In a field that graduates only 100 new vascular surgeons a year, Dr. Nwobi is an exemplary vascular surgeon who worked for the Indian Health Services, Veterans Affairs Hospital, and large private and public hospitals.


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