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What Causes Varicose and Spider Veins?
Varicose veins are twisted veins that can be blue, red, or skin-colored. The larger veins may appear ropelike and make the skin bulge out.
Spider veins, or thread veins, are smaller than varicose veins. They are usually red. They may look like tree branches or spider webs. Spider veins can usually be seen under the skin, but they do not make the skin bulge out as varicose veins do.
What Causes Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?
Problems in the valves in your veins can prevent blood from flowing normally and cause varicose veins or spider veins.
Your heart pumps blood filled with oxygen and nutrients through your arteries to your whole body. Veins then carry the blood from different parts of your body back to your heart. Normally, your veins have valves that act as one-way flaps. However, if the valves do not close correctly, blood can leak back into the lower part of the vein rather than going toward the heart. Over time, more blood is stuck in the vein, building pressure that weakens the walls of the vein. This causes the vein to grow larger.
Also sitting or standing for a long time, especially for more than four hours at a time, may make your veins work harder against gravity to pump blood to your heart.
Being overweight or obese can put extra pressure on your veins. Women who have obesity are more likely to get varicose veins than women are with a healthy weight.
During pregnancy, the amount of blood pumping through your body increases to support your unborn baby. The extra blood causes your veins to swell. Your growing uterus also puts pressure on your veins. Varicose veins may go away within a few months after childbirth, or they may remain and continue to cause symptoms. More varicose veins and spider veins may appear with each additional pregnancy. For some women, varicose veins shrink or disappear after childbirth. For others, varicose veins stay after childbirth, and symptoms continue to get worse.
As you get older, the valves in your veins may weaken and not work as well. Your calf muscles also weaken as you age. Your calf muscles normally help squeeze veins and send blood back toward the heart as you walk.
The hormone estrogen may weaken vein valves and lead to varicose veins. Using hormonal birth control with estrogen and progesterone, or taking menopausal hormone therapy, may raise your risk of varicose or spider veins.
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