Spider and varicose veins can affect both men and women, particularly in the middle to later years of life. While anyone can develop these visible vessels, some individuals are at higher risk than others. Hormonal changes can be a major factor in the formation of varicose veins, so understanding how hormonal changes affect veins can help determine why these veins occur and identify steps you might be able to take to reduce your risk.
What are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are red, blue or purple lines that are visible on the skin’s surface. These vessels often appear in a network that resembles a starburst or a spider’s web. Spider veins typically cause more than a cosmetic nuisance, but in some instances, they can also lead to leg heaviness, aching and swelling of the lower extremities.
Many factors can contribute to the formation of spider veins, including:
- Sun exposure or other damage to the skin
- Skin conditions like rosacea (leads to facial spider veins)
- Some types of medications, especially steroids
- Vein conditions like chronic venous insufficiency or CVI
Hormonal fluctuations are another major cause of spider veins, which is why they commonly appear during pregnancy and menopause. Both estrogen and progesterone are responsible for dilation of those small veins, which makes them more visible on the skin’s surface. Those hormones can also weaken the vein walls, leading to reflux inside the veins and resulting in enlarged veins that can become visible as well.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are usually larger than spider veins and tend to protrude above the skin’s surface in large, flesh-colored ropes. These enlarged vessels are frequently caused by CVI, which occurs when the veins in the lower legs stop working as efficiently as they once did. Blood begins to pool or reflux inside the vessels, leading to swelling and varicosity.
Because varicose veins are frequently caused by an underlying vein condition, they are also more likely to be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as:
- Painful, aching legs
- Swelling of the lower leg, ankle and foot
- Cramping and restless legs, especially at night
- Heavy, fatigued legs at the end of the day
- Skin itching and burning around the vein
- Changes to the color and texture of the skin
Hormonal fluctuations can also impact varicose veins, because the changes can weaken the vessel wall and change the pressure inside the vessels. In fact, the extreme hormone fluctuations during pregnancy or menopause may even lead to the onset of varicose veins.
While varicose veins due to hormones may resolve on their own once the hormone levels return to normal, some swollen veins will remain long after the pregnancy is over or menopause has passed. In these cases, procedures are available to treat the veins, eliminating their appearance and their painful symptoms.
Hormonal Changes in Men
While women are generally the focus of varicose veins caused by hormonal fluctuations, one small study from 2009 found that men may not be completely immune to this condition. The study, which was published in the journal Angiology, found that men with varicose veins may have more estradiol than men without varicose veins. While the results of this study are compelling, more research will be needed to determine whether hormonal fluctuations in men actually lead to the formation of varicose veins like they can with women.
Varicose Vein Prevention
If you are going through a time of life characterized by hormonal fluctuations, there are some steps you can take to lower your risk for varicose veins:
Commit to a daily exercise program like walking or biking. The regular flexing of the calf muscles makes it easier for the lower veins to push blood back up to the heart and prevents the pressure on the vessels that can lead to varicosity.
Spend a bit of time at the end of the day elevating your legs above the level of your heart. This habit will also give those hard working lower leg veins a break and lower your risk for damage to these vessels.
Consider compression stockings that offer gradient pressure that is tighter at the foot and loosens as the sock moves up the leg. These specialized stockings are also designed to relieve the pressure on the lower leg veins and prevent swelling and varicosity from occurring.
Avoid additional risk factors for varicose veins, particularly during this time of hormonal changes. These risk factors include smoking, weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle.
While these steps may help to lower your risk for developing varicose veins, they won’t do much to eliminate veins that have already become varicose. Fortunately, there are minimally invasive treatment options today that will efficiently eradicate those swollen veins and their uncomfortable symptoms without anesthesia or downtime. From innovative laser therapies to proven injectable treatments that have been used successfully for decades, we have the right vein treatment for you.
Don’t suffer with your varicose veins any longer. Whether your veins can be attributed to genetics, hormonal changes or other factors, our expert staff and experienced vein specialists can help you eliminate those painful veins for good. For more information, contact Canada Vein Clinics today at 877-876-8346. As Canada’s leading provider of vein diagnostics and treatments, we help residents of Toronto, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Lindsay, Ottawa, Orleans, Halifax, Dartmouth, and Moncton achieve better vein health and a higher quality of life.