Spider veins and varicose veins aren’t simply a cosmetic concern. These visual vessels signal a problem with blood flow, usually in the legs.
Veins are the blood vessel that brings blood *back* to the heart once the oxygen and nutrients have been delivered to tissues throughout the body. Veins in the legs often have to fight gravity to return blood to your chest. (By contrast, arteries are the blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.)
When the valves of the veins don’t close correctly, blood leaks backwards. Blood pressure in the vein builds up, and the vein wall weakens and swells up. The result? Spider veins or varicose veins.
Spider veins look like tree branches or (of course) spider webs. Sometimes, they appear on the face (such as in people with rosacea), and they are usually red.
Varicose veins are larger than spider veins, and they bulge out from the skin in twisted, rope-like patterns. They might be red or even skin-toned, but they are often blue.
Although spider veins and varicose veins do tend to run in families, there are some lifestyle changes that can help prevent them from developing. Here’s what experts recommend to keep spider veins and varicose veins off your legs:
1. Stay active.
It’s a logical conclusion: If pooling blood can result in bulging veins, then keeping blood flowing can help prevent it. Exercise dilates the blood vessels and demands an increase in blood flow.
Plus, one of the biggest risk factors for spider veins and varicose veins is sitting or standing still for long periods of time. It forces the veins to work against gravity (and crossing or bending your legs makes it even worse). In other words, find ways to build movement into your everyday life.
2. Lose weight, if needed.
Excess fat tissue adds extra pressure to the veins. Women who are obese are more likely to develop varicose veins than women of a lower weight, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.
3. Prop up your feet.
When possible, use gravity to your advantage and rest your feet on stools, chairs, or ottomans when you sit. This makes it easier for veins to keep pushing blood toward the heart.
4. Try compression socks.
It sounds too good to be true, but these hugging socks put pressure around the ankles and shins to increase blood flow back to the heart.
Get ideas to stay active and keep your legs clear of visible veins:
Varicose veins. Bethesda, MD: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (Accessed on February 27, 2022 at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/varicose-veins.)
Varicose veins and spider veins. Washington, DC: Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Accessed on February 27, 2022 at https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/varicose-veins-and-spider-veins.)