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Preventing Varicose/Spider Veins

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Updated June 11, 2014

How can I prevent varicose and spider veins?

There are several easy things you can do to help prevent varicose and spider veins and to relieve discomfort from the ones you have:
  • Protect your skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen to limit spider veins on the face.
  • Exercise regularly to improve your leg strength, circulation, and vein strength. Focus on exercises that work your legs, such as walking or running.
  • Control your weight to avoid placing too much pressure on your legs.
  • Do not cross your legs when sitting. However, try to elevate your legs when resting.
  • Do not stand for long periods of time. If you have to stand for long periods of time, shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes. If you have to sit for long periods of time, stand up and move around or take a short walk approximately every 30 minutes.
  • Wear elastic support stockings, but avoid clothing that is too tight or that will constrict your waist, groin, or legs.
  • Make sure to include high-fiber foods in your diet since constipation can contribute to varicose veins. High fiber foods include fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, like bran. Control your salt-intake. Salt, or sodium, can cause you to retain water or swell.

Should I see a doctor about varicose veins?

Remember these important questions when deciding whether to see your doctor:

    Has the varicose vein become swollen, red, or very tender or warm to the touch?

      If yes, see your doctor.

      If no, are there sores or a rash on the leg or near the ankle with the varicose vein, or are there circulation problems in your feet?

        If yes, see your doctor.

        If no, continue to follow the self-care tips above.

        How are varicose and spider veins treated?

        Besides a physical examination, your doctor can take x-rays or ultrasound pictures of the vein to assess the cause and severity of the problem. You may want to speak with a doctor who specializes in vein diseases (phlebology). You should discuss which treatment options are best for your condition and lifestyle. It is important to remember that not all cases of varicose veins are the same. Doctors may differ in the ways they treat you.

        Some available treatments or surgeries include:

        Sclerotherapy

        Of all available treatments, this one is most commonly used for both spider veins and varicose veins. It involves injecting a solution into the vein that causes the lining of the vein walls to swell, stick together, and eventually seal shut. The flow of blood is stopped and the vein turns into scar tissue. In a few weeks, the vein should fade. Although the same vein may need to be injected with the solution more than once, sclerotherapy is very effective if done correctly. The American Academy of Dermatology states that most patients can expect a 50% to 90% improvement. Also, a new and improved type of sclerotherapy called microsclerotherapy uses improved solutions and injection techniques that increase the success rate for removal of spider veins. Sclerotherapy does not require anesthesia, and can be done in the doctor's office.

        Some side effects may only occur at the site of the injection, such as stinging or painful cramps; red raised patches of skin, small skin ulcers, and bruises. Spots, brown lines, or groups of fine red blood vessels could appear around the vein being treated. These usually disappear. The treated vein could become inflamed or develop lumps of coagulated or congested blood. These are not dangerous. Applying heat and taking aspirin or antibiotics can relieve inflammation. Lumps of coagulated blood can be drained. Health insurance coverage varies. If the treatment is done for cosmetic reasons only, it may not be covered.

        Electrodesiccation

        This treatment is similar to sclerotherapy except the veins are sealed off with an electrical current instead of the injection of solution. This treatment may leave scars.

        Laser surgery

        Until recently, laser treatments mostly were used for treating spider veins on the face. Varicose veins in the legs did not respond consistently to this treatment, and some doctors doubted whether laser treatment actually worked, and it was not covered by most health insurance plans. Now, however, new technology in laser treatments can effectively treat varicose veins in the legs.
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