To understand the difference between varicose veins and spider veins, we need a little background on our venous system.
The body’s venous system is a network of vessels large and small that carry blood to and from the heart and lungs. First, the heart pumps the blood to the lungs, where oxygen attaches to the red blood cells for transport to tissue. Once the oxygen dispatches at its destination, the red blood cell heads back to the lungs to pick up more.
Strictly one way
Blood vessels are strictly one-way roadways of the body; huge highways, overpasses, tunnels, small country roads that your blood travels in the oxygen-delivery platform that is your 100km-long venous system.
There are one-way valves on all blood vessels to ensure blood only travels in one direction and is allowed to travel uphill, say from your feet to your heart or your heart to your brain.
Gravity will always apply its magnificent force on our bodies, and the blood will try to head downwards if given half a chance. These one-way valves keep the flow in check. The vessel walls keep your blood pressure steady, so the heart’s pump can force the blood around the body.
So what happens when valves fail or the vessel walls become weak? You can end up with what’s known as reflux, which means blood pools ineffectively passed through a vessel.
This pooling puts pressure on the vessel walls, causing bulges. We call these bulges varicose veins, and when the pressure pushes blood vessels to spread, spider veins.
What are spider veins?
Spider veins appear near the skin’s surface and get their name from their spider web-like appearance. Spider veins tend to stay at the skin’s surface and don’t result in serious problems since they are often a result of a dysfunctional vein elsewhere – the varicose vein.
Thinning skin and ageing blood vessels can result in spider veins, which we can remove easily using straightforward dermatological procedures. Spider veins are not dangerous but may be a sign of other blood vessel problems.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are more prominent bulging veins, usually in the legs, that can cause some uncomfortable symptoms such as aching legs. Varicose veins are not dangerous in and of themselves, but they sometimes do require treatment as they can result in further complications. We treat varicose veins for aesthetic reasons as well as medical reasons.
Varicose veins can appear lumpy and twisty, dark purple or red bulges above the skin, unlike spider veins, which do not protrude. Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men.
Women who have had multiple pregnancies are at a higher risk. Varicose veins can appear during pregnancy due to the higher volume of blood and higher blood pressure but then naturally resolve once the pressure is off.
Some people inherit a tendency for varicose veins from their families. If you carry a lot of extra weight, the pressure on the venous system can increase your chances of developing varicose veins, as occurs when standing a lot.
Varicose veins may clot and become sore, hot, hard or change colour, and be associated with itching, swelling, burning, a feeling of heaviness or tiredness in the legs.
Spider veins treatment
Spider veins are damaged blood vessels caused by higher pressure in varicose or other veins, resulting in branching out or spreading of blood vessels. Spider veins are painless, and most people seek treatment because of their appearance. We can remove spider veins and help prevent their recurrence using a range of treatments.
Varicose vein treatment – sclerotherapy
The typical treatment for varicose veins is sclerotherapy. We inject the vein with a unique solution that causes the closure of the vein, which the body then absorbs as waste.
At ENRICH Clinic in Melbourne, we treat smaller varicose veins and spider veins. More prominent varicose veins may need specialised treatment, so come in for an assessment. An ultrasound will be required to check for veins that are suitable for treatment.
Combined varicose and spider veins treatment (Melbourne)
We have several options for varicose and spider vein treatments, with sclerotherapy one of our most reliable medical treatments, alongside more recent developments in laser treatments.
Alleviating symptoms at home
You may have a waiting period before your appointment with ENRICH Clinic to remove your veins, so here are some tips for managing symptoms at home and between treatments.
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid extra pressure on veins
- Wear compression stockings to help relieve aches and swelling
- Put your legs up to make use of gravity and prevent the pooling of blood
- Keep moving and active each day and get up to walk around every half hour
- Limit alcohol consumption
- If symptoms become very painful, you see skin changes, your legs cramp or spasm, or you develop sores, please see your doctor.
We will assess your veins and provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan to remove your varicose veins and spider veins.
Contact us to make an appointment to discuss your needs.
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