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These are the swollen or stretched veins that protrude from the skin like small sections of rope. Normally, veins direct oxygen-poor blood back to the heart and lungs to become oxygen enriched. Healthy veins function as one-way valves that keep the blood moving in the right direction. Sometimes a vein may become incompetent, allowing blood to leak back down, away from the heart and lungs, and pool in the leg. This “Varicose Vein” becomes enlarged, causing congestion within the vein. This congestion can result in fatigue, swelling, throbbing, heaviness, aching, restlessness in the legs, cramping at night, and itching and burning of the skin. In advanced cases, these problems can lead to skin rash, pigmentation changes, inflammation, ulceration, and bleeding.
These are somewhat smaller than varicose veins and their function is to carry blood to the capillaries in your skin, rather than back to the heart and lungs for oxygen. They have thin walls that expand under excessive pressure. Though they are large enough to be unsightly, they are not technically classified as “varicose” veins.
Those annoying, unattractive spider veins, which appear as small red, blue or purple lines, are actually enlarged capillaries. Usually less than 2 millimeters in diameter, they are sometimes raised from the surface of your skin. The most common problems for patients with spider veins are the presence of purplish or reddish lines or web-like discolorations. Pain in the legs, throbbing, itching, cramping, and restlessness of the leg may occur—but are not common.
Over 80 million people have problems with varicose veins and spider veins. These conditions are often hereditary. Hormonal factors such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause, and the use of birth control pills containing estrogen or progesterone also affect veins. Age, leg injury, obesity, lack of exercise, weight fluctuation, constriction, and prolonged sitting and standing can be additional contributing factors.