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Blame your children and your mother

It’s that time of year again, drag out the shorts, short skirts and sandals. Get your pedicure. And then look at your legs. OMG those ugly spider veins. Very common in women, and often very fixable. Though women frequently tell me they have varicose (or veryclose!) veins, often what they really have are spider veins. Varicose veins are usually larger than a pencil in diameter, ropy, bulging, skin colored, bluish veins that are a symptom of vein disease in the larger veins deep in the legs and pelvis. Spider veins are smaller, hair diameter to spaghetti diameter sized blue, reddish, or purple ugly lines all over your beautiful legs, ankles and feet. Reticular veins are in between sized, bluish or greenish veins that connect smaller veins to the larger ones.

Since varicose veins a symptom of deeper vein disease, they require a more in depth work up and have a whole different set of treatment options. Some women with spider veins also have varicose veins, only an exam by your physician can determine if you do. I am not going to talk about varicose veins today, only about the much more common, and much more easily treatable spider veins.

Spider veins on the legs are small dilated blood vessels, most commonly caused by pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone replacement, occupations requiring prolonged standing, pressure on surface veins from abnormal larger deeper blood vessels, weight gain, and family history. They are very common in adult women, much less common in men due to the special and wonderful differences between men and women. Sometimes they cause aching or throbbing, especially behind the knee. They are ugly, and women hate them. Luckily, effective treatment often gives good and long lasting improvement.

What causes spider veins on the leg? In other words, why me Lord? Because you are a special and wonderful estrogen filled baby making, hard working, biological machine, that’s why.

Causes of Spider Veins On the Leg

  • Pregnancy—during pregnancy hormonal influences causes your blood vessels to go into overdrive. You are making blood vessels like crazy to feed that wonderful little angel. Unfortunately you don’t just make blood vessels in your uterus; the hormonal effects cause you to make them everywhere. Your blood volume, the total amount of blood in your body, increases so that you have enough for two, or more. So you have blood vessels growing, and more volume of blood in your veins which puts pressure on the veins. And you also have that bowling ball, or watermelon sleeping right on top of where your larger, deeper veins in the legs go through your pelvis trying to reach your heart and lungs. So you can keep going. And although I often have women tell me that they didn’t have any or many spider veins with the first child or two, but only with the last one, each pregnancy stretches those veins in your legs. Just like your belly, which bounces back pretty well after the first child, less after the second and even less after the third and so on. And if you have a multiple birth, it just multiplies the fun. So don’t blame your last child, the blame should be shared equally and each should contribute equally to the cost of your treatment.
  • Birth Control Pills—are really just fooling your body hormonally into thinking you are already pregnant so it doesn’t get any cute ideas. Without the bowling ball in your pelvis.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy—ditto, but less ditto.
  • Occupations— that require prolonged standing, such as teaching or hairdressing. My very “best’ spider vein removal customers are teachers and hairstylists. That’s because they stand in one place all day. The muscles in your calf are referred to as “your second heart.” When you walk, the calf muscles pump the blood in your leg veins back up to your heart, as long as the little valves in the veins are working properly. So women who are on their feet all day, but walking around, usually do better.
  • Abnormal Larger Deeper Blood Vessels—the smaller veins drain into the larger, deeper blood vessels in your legs and then back to your heart. There are one way valves inside the veins that are designed to open when blood is pushed through them by the pressure of the contraction of your calf muscles, and then close to prevent the blood from falling back down from gravity. At least that is how they are supposed to work. When they don’t, varicose veins develop. Abnormal valves in the larger leg veins often run in families. Some women with spider veins also have abnormal valves in the larger veins, some don’t. Your physician will tell you if you do or not.
  • Weight Gain—causes more pressure on the veins, and fat makes estrogen. Double whammy.
  • Family History—yep, like a lot of things, the tendency runs in family. Another thing to put on your “blame my mother” list.

So now you know why you have spider veins. Next—how to get rid of spider veins, and how you can get your kids to pay for it. Your mom probably thinks you should pay her.

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