Spider Veins (AKA Thread Veins)

varicose veins and spider veins causesWe often think of varicose veins and spider veins as a condition that only affects older people but the fact is that it can be an issue for those in their twenties too, especially where there is a family history of microcirculatory disorders. Unlike varicose veins, thread veins are small and usually not raised, forming instead a spidery appearance of blue or red lines across the surface of the skin. These may be limited to just one or two little lines on the thinner skin of the face or legs, or a large area resembling a complex tree-branch patterns across the skin in these areas.

What Causes Varicose Veins and Thread Veins?

Varicose veins are caused by weak valves or damage to the valves in the veins that then leads to improper venous return of blood to the heart. The muscles in the legs squeeze these veins to pump blood back up to the heart where it is reoxygenated and pumped back out to the rest of the body.

As the veins in the legs have to work against the flow of gravity to squeeze the blood back to the heart they have valves that are designed to prevent blood reversing its flow in these blood vessels. Damage to the valves can, therefore, result in blood pooling in the veins and causing them to bulge, or even resulting in blood clot formation and deep vein thrombosis.

Factors in Spider Vein Formation

Over time, weak blood vessels can distort and even burst, causing veins to enlarge and push against the skin. Spider veins are smaller veins that are closer to the skin and which may weaken through this pooling of blood or as a result of trauma to the skin, sun damage, or even hormonal changes. High blood pressure and other problems with the cardiovscular system, as well as excessive or chronic alcohol consumption can also impair capillary health and lead to the development of spider veins which may also resemble rosacea.

Who Gets Varicose Veins?

Around half of women and just under half of men over the age of fifty have varicose veins to some degree. Younger people are more likely to develop varicose veins and thread veins early if they:


  • Have particularly sedentary lifestyles
  • Are genetically predisposed to circulatory problems (i.e. have parents with lots of varicose veins)
  • Are dangerously obese (which may also lead to a lack of movement)
  • Spend a lot of time in the sunshine, especially if sunburn occurs
  • Are taking certain medications such as birth control, oestrogen, or progesterone
  • Are pregnant, as blood volume increases and places extra pressure on veins
  • Often sit crosslegged or with bent legs, putting increased pressure on veins
  • Have a job involving sitting or standing for long periods of time, where there is little movement of the leg muscles to encourage venous return

Pregnancy and Varicose Veins

Pregnancy is often a factor in early onset of varicose veins and thread veins as the amount of blood in your body increases dramatically when pregnant, causing extra pressure on the veins. The stretching of the uterus as the baby develops also places causes increase vein compression. The enlargement of the veins tends to lessen a few months after giving birth, although each additional pregnancy increases the likelihood of varicose veins.

Preventing Thread Veins

The main contributing factors in the development of varicose veins and thread veins are simple gravity, weakening veins, and increased pressure on the veins, be it from extra blood during pregnancy, postural issues, or a poor diet and lifestyle choices like smoking or excess drinking. There is some evidence to suggest that certain flavonoids found in berries can be protective against varicose veins and spider veins, as can other phytochemicals from foods included in a heart-healthy diet. Having a diagnosis of spider veins can help rule out other skin conditions, such as rosacea, as the cause of skin abnormalities on the face or even the ankles.

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