What are Spider Veins

Spider veins appear just under the skin, usually on the thighs, lower legs and feet, but they can appear on other parts of the body as well. They are red or blue and have the appearance of broken glass or a spider web. They affect between 50 and 55 percent of women and 40 to 45 percent of men (1).

There are two types, varicose veins and those caused by telangiectasia.

Why We Get Varicose Veins

The reason varicose veins appear on the legs is because the veins of a person’s legs have a series of valves inside them that prevent blood from flowing down as a result of gravity. These one way valves sometimes fail which results in a back flow of the blood. As the blood seeps back down the vein, it causes them to swell and expand and that is the reason they appear just beneath the skin.

Causes of Valve Failure

There are two major causes of valve failure, age and genetics. Over time the valves simply wear out, but this can be exacerbated by a genetic predisposition for valve failure.

Other Causes of Varicose Veins

In addition to the two most common causes, there are others including:

  • Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause
  • Pregnancy and the extra weight and strain it puts on a woman’s legs
  • Obesity because of the load the legs are forced to carry
  • Sedentary jobs because lack of movement puts pressure on the valves to work harder

Spider Veins Caused by Telangiectasia

While varicose veins appear on the legs the majority of the time, spider veins caused by telangiectasia usually appear on the hands or face. Unlike varicose veins, spider veins caused by telangiectasia are not caused by valve failure. Rather, they are a symptom of a hemorrhaged blood vessels just under the skin.

Causes of Telangiectasia

Telangiectasia can be caused by a variety of factors, but the some common causes are over exposure to the sun or freezing temperatures for long periods of time, trauma, radiation exposure and chemotherapy.


Contact a South Jersey Vein doctor for more information about varicose and spider veins.