Spider veins are dilated capillaries that are located in the most superficial layer of the skin. Appearing as red, purple, or blue “spider’s legs,” these veins are small, dilated vessels caused by the pooling of blood close to the surface of the skin.
As they often appear alongside slightly larger blue or green feeder veins, also known as reticular veins, it is believed that spider veins are caused by the same problems that cause varicose veins and other venous abnormalities.
On their own and without any other problems, spider veins are a cosmetic issue that can be successfully treated with sclerotherapy, injections with a solution that causes the veins to close, rerouting the blood into other veins. The closed veins scar and eventually fade away.
However, if you have other health conditions, this treatment is unlikely to be effective without the underlying cause being resolved. This makes it essential for your doctor to pay close attention when examining your legs prior to proceeding with a course of treatment
Multiple factors contribute to the development of spider veins during pregnancy. Heredity plays an important role, and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy directly impact vein wall distensibility (ability to extend). This happens to accommodate the increased blood volume needed during the pregnancy.
Later in the pregnancy, the increased size of the uterus compresses the pelvic veins and increases the pressure in leg veins, adding to their already distended volume. In women who are prone to spider veins, this combination of events will always lead to a new surge in the numbers of spider veins on the legs.
A great way to prevent worsening of spider veins or developing varicose vein conditions is to treat them prior to pregnancy.
Wearing compression hose during pregnancy is an excellent method of preventing more veins from appearing. Minimizing weight gain and staying active are well-recognized ways to prevent varicose and spider vein conditions from worsening.
The good news is that many veins disappear several weeks after delivery as hormonal changes return to normal.
The mainstay of treatment for spider veins is sclerotherapy; however, this is not done during pregnancy. In general, most vein specialists agree to wait six weeks after delivery before starting sclerosant treatment.
Dr. David Glass, FACS, is a vein surgeon and the medical director of the New York Vein Center, with offices in Brooklyn and Manhattan. NewYorkVeinCenter.org