Halloween is coming up! It’s time to break out the pumpkins, skeletons, and monster masks and get the candy ready. But this year, when you put on your favorite sexy Halloween costume, you may have noticed something new. Spider webs. Not on your outfit, but your legs! What are they? Where did they come from? How did they get there? Will they go away? Are they bad?
Here’s the good news, the purple, blue, or red spider webs that have suddenly shot out across your skin are probably just spider veins.
Spider veins don’t discriminate- they can appear at any age in any gender, but they tend to show up in women more than men. They usually show up between your 20’s and 40’s and get more prominent as you age. They also appear more often in people who have jobs that require them to sit or stand all day, or people who have tacked on more than a few extra pounds.
If you’ve got them, you are not alone. About 45% of people get them sometime during their lifetime. But as with any sudden changes in your body, you may be thrown off and a little freaked out wondering, “are spider veins bad?”. That’s natural. Take a deep breath and keep reading.
Trick or treat?
Although spider veins are never really a treat, they are usually not life-threatening or even harmful. For some people, spider veins are purely a blemish with no other adverse symptoms attached. But others may experience itching, pain, or discomfort associated with spider veins.
What Are Spider Veins?
Although spider veins can occur anywhere on your body, they usually appear on your face and legs. Spider veins pop up on your legs because something has gone wrong with the blood flow there. In a healthy leg vein, blood flows in only one direction: upward from your feet towards your heart. Every few inches along the interior of these veins, there are one-way doors called valves. When the blood flows up towards the heart, and it passes a valve, the valve closes. This prevents the blood from sliding back down towards the feet.
Just like any well-used machine, over time, the body and its parts begin to deteriorate. This includes the valves inside your veins, which can become defective and leaky. Damaged valves in the legs allow the blood to flow backward and pool. This weight of this pooled blood puts pressure on vein walls, which causes the vein to bulge. Bulging veins are typically known as varicose veins. But unhealthy new veins can also form as a response to high pressure in your normal veins, and they can eventually spread out like webs across the surface of your skin. Spider veins usually show up as blue or purple because the oxygen in vein blood has been used up.
Sometimes, these veins can press on the skin’s surrounding nerves, causing discomfort, including cramping, pain, and restlessness. Excess blood in the legs can also cause the legs to feel heavy or tired. These symptoms are often more intense at the end of the day or when exposed to heat.
Nothing to Be Scared of, Right?
Generally speaking, are spider veins bad? No. But it’s always good to get them checked out. Why? Just like a well-costumed trick-or-treater at your doorstep, you never know what’s under the costume. Although they don’t cause problems on their own, spider veins often indicate underlying health issues.
Because every vein in your body is connected to every other vein in your body in an extensive system, spider veins can be a warning sign of unhealthy changes in larger veins. Some of these underlying conditions include:
- Deep vein thrombosis may cause life-threatening blood clots.
- Chronic venous insufficiency not only increases the pressure in the affected vein, which ramps up discomfort and can create varicose veins, but it can cause other problems, ultimately leading to a venous stasis ulcer.
- A cluster of spider veins around your ankle (corona phlebectatica) is a sign of chronic severe venous insufficiency and should be looked at by a specialist.
There is also another condition called Spider angioma that masquerades as spider veins. Spider angioma could be confused for a spider vein except that, unlike spider veins, it has a red spot in the center with spokes of red weblike extensions radiating out from it. The skin around the angioma is also reddish. The appearance of these blemishes can be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis, but it signals chronic liver disease in 95% of all patients.
We’ve Got Answers and Solutions
As you can see, even though spider veins may not be bad guys, it’s always good to get them checked out to make sure that they aren’t signs of underlying venous conditions.
At Denver Vein Center, our team has specialized knowledge of venous conditions. When you come in for a consultation, a team member will examine your legs and face and may also perform an ultrasound on your legs to get a better understanding of what’s going on in your veins. They will specifically look for leaky valves and blood flow going in the wrong direction.
Depending on their findings, they may suggest lifestyle changes like losing weight, increasing physical activity, and elevating your legs to support the blood flow back to your heart to help prevent further damage. They may also refer you to a specialist if they are concerned about any underlying conditions that lifestyle changes cannot take care of. Even if our team determines that your spider veins are not signs of something else, you may still want to erase them from your skin. We can do that too!
Denver Vein Center offers a number of different treatment options for the removal of spider veins. The two most effective are sclerotherapy and laser removal. Both are non-invasive and will allow you to get back to your normal activities in no time.
Spider webs should be a Halloween decoration, not something you’re trying to hide under your Halloween costume. Make an appointment today!