By Megy Karydes
Can you get spider veins from crossing your legs? Or wearing high heels? Are they genetic? Well, no, not really. But genetics and your lifestyle can be partly to blame, should they show up.
Spider veins often appear on the skin as fine, web-like lines on the thighs, ankles and feet. While both women and men are susceptible, women are more likely to get them and notice them more, says Dr. Brooke Jackson, medical director at the Skin Wellness Center of Chicago.
Hormonal changes from puberty, pregnancy and using birth control pills, as well as working in certain jobs, are also contributing factors.
Michelle Ovando, a physician assistant in dermatology at Dermatology Associates in Tinley Park, agrees that some occupations and activities that involve prolonged standing or sitting pose higher risks. “Some examples would be nurses, hair stylists and people with desk jobs,” says Ovando. “People with inactive lifestyles or who are overweight are also at an increased risk.”
Jackson says that complete prevention is unlikely, given the multifactorial reasons one can get them, although support or compression stockings can slow down their development.
Ovando notes that regular exercise to improve one’s leg strength, increased vascular circulation and vein strength can help minimize the occurrence of spider veins. It also will help maintain a healthy body weight. Jackson and Ovando both agree that no one needs to suffer from the complications or embarrassment of spider veins. Innovative and new treatments currently available have proven to be safe and effective and often can be performed in a specialized vein clinic and in dermatology and vascular practices.
Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment, according to Ovando.
“A sclerosing solution is injected into the affected areas with a small needle,” she says. “The solution causes the vein walls to become inflamed and stick together, stopping the flow of blood. This procedure is done in the office with minimal discomfort to the patient. Additional treatments are generally required for optimal results, but most patients experience a 60 to 80 percent improvement.”
Jackson has found treatment with injection of Asclera solution, a prescription medicine administered by a medical professional, to be successful for many of her patients.
So, while total prevention may not be possible, when the spider veins crawl up, it’s comforting to know that they can be exterminated.
Published in Chicago Health Summer/Fall 2012