Varicose veins, also called spider veins, are large, raised, swollen veins that normally develop in the legs. More than 40 million people in the US have varicose veins, including an estimated 41% of women over the age of 50. You can tell you have varicose veins when:

  • Your veins are dark blue or purple in color
  • Your veins appear to be twisted or bulging out
  • There are “clusters” of veins visible on parts of your leg

Before and After Photos

Varicose veins occur when the one-way valves in the legs do not function properly. These valves are supposed to pump the blood back up toward the heart, and when that doesn’t happen it can cause a buildup of blood in the leg and lead to the unsightly appearance of spider veins.

Habits to Prevent Varicose Veins

There is no surefire way to prevent varicose veins, but there are certain habits you can adopt to help. These include:

  • Exercise: Getting up and moving can help support increased blood circulation through the legs. Always consult with your physician prior to starting a new exercise regimen.
  • Keep your weight down: Losing excess weight can help to relieve unnecessary pressure off your veins. Sticking to a low-sodium diet can also prevent swelling from water retention, which also relieves pressure.
  • Dress smart: Wearing low-heeled shoes can give your calves a better workout, which is better for the veins than high-heeled shoes. Avoiding clothes that are tight in the waist, leg and groin areas can help prevent reduced blood flow to those areas as well.
  • Take breaks to elevate legs: Taking a few short breaks during the day to elevate the legs to a level above the heart can improve circulation. You can use pillows to help with this.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for too long: Staying in the same position for extended periods of time can inhibit blood flow. If you job requires you to sit at a desk, try and take quick walking breaks throughout the day.
  • Wear sunscreen: Excessive exposure to the sun can cause spider veins in the cheeks or nose of a fair-skinned person.

Additional Varicose Vein Risk Factors

Following these prevention tips can certainly help, but women should understand that not all risk factors are behavioral. Non-behavioral risk factors include:


When a woman is pregnant there is a sizable increase in the amount of blood in her body. This can cause veins to expand. Additionally, the growing uterus can apply pressure on the veins. Luckily, the spider veins stemming from pregnancy typically disappear around 3 months after delivery.

Family History

Just about half of all people with varicose veins have a family history of the condition. If both of your parents have varicose veins, you are up to 90% more likely than others to develop them.

Hormonal changes

Changing hormone levels during puberty and menopause can contribute to the forming of varicose or spider veins. Taking birth control bills or other medicines containing estrogen and progesterone can similarly increase risk.

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