Your veins are vessels that carry blood from your body's tissues to your heart and lungs to pick up more oxygen and get re-circulated through your body. The muscles in your legs aid in this process, contracting to help pump the blood upward. Veins have tiny valves inside it to keep the blood flowing in the right direction; this one-way traffic keeps blood from flowing backward. However, a malfunction can occur in one or more of these valves, a common condition we call venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency is what causes varicose veins and spider veins and affects more than 30 million Americans. Other risk factors for venous insufficiency include a history of trauma or deep vein thrombosis in the past.
Varicose veins afflict 10% to 20% of all adults - are swollen and often visible, twisted, blue or colorless veins that are close to the surface of the skin and often appear as bulges. Because valves in these veins are damaged, they hold more blood at higher pressure than normal. Common symptoms of varicose veins include swelling, feeling heavy, "bursting or strectching" of the skin, and tired or achy legs.
Spider veins are tangled groups of tiny blood vessels just under the skin surface that resemble spider webs or tree branches. Typically, they are red, blue or purple and are clearly visible on the thighs and lower legs.People with a family history of varicose veins or spider veins have the highest risk of developing them. In fact, even athletes and young women and man can develop varicose veins if they have a family history of venous insufficiency.