What Causes Spidery Red, Purple, or Blue Patches on Legs?

The underlying cause of most spider veins is increased pressure on the veins. For leg veins, that pressure often stems from blood pooling in a vein. If a valve fails inside a vein, blood flows in reverse and collects beneath the valve. This causes tiny spider veins to branch out from the overfilled vein. It’s called Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), and it causes varicose veins and spider veins. Book an appointment to learn whether you have CVI and how to easily resolve it.

Other things that cause spider veins are pregnancy, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, hormonal shifts, aging, diseases, and medications. The top predictor of spider veins is a family history of them. Spider veins are also more common in women since things like pregnancy, birth control, and menopause impact their development.

Both internal and external pressure cause spider veins. For instance, sun damage dilates blood vessels and causes spider veins. Squeezing facial pimples and scrubbing skin with an exfoliant can also cause them. Blunt injuries and physical strain contribute to spider vein formation. The primary cause of spider veins in the legs is CVI, because leg veins pump blood against gravity, increasing the likelihood of backward blood flow. Facial spider veins have a wider range of causes, because skin there is thinner, making veins more vulnerable to external factors.

What causes spider veins in your legs? Can you prevent them? How can you reduce your risk? Here’s how to treat existing veins and avoid new ones.

Is the Anatomy of a Vein Flawed in Spider or Varicose Veins?

Spider veins aren’t like healthy veins. They’re small offshoots that stem from an engorged vein. They’re like a dead end that doesn’t lead anywhere. They often form in clusters, with a central starting point. Some of them look like a spider’s body with several spindly legs spreading outward. Others resemble a spider web, with a clump of tiny lines. They look different from other veins, and they’re often more visible because they’re close to the surface.

Is the Anatomy of Veins Attached to Spider Veins an Issue?

The anatomy of a vein contains three vein wall layers. The outermost layer gives the vein structure. The middle layer gives it flexibility. The innermost layer is smooth to enhance blood flow. In many veins, this layer has valves that control the direction of blood.

For veins in the leg, blood should only flow upward, to the heart. But when valves fail, blood flows the wrong way, elevating pressure that causes new branches to form (spider veins), or causes the vein to stretch and contort (varicose veins). A spider vein is not healthy, and neither is the vein that supplies it. A problem in the anatomy of veins deeper in the leg usually causes spider veins at the surface.

Spider Vein, Varicose Vein, Bruise (Pictures): Same Cause?

From a distance, spider veins often look like bruises. But varicose veins, spider veins, and bruises are different. These spider and varicose vein pictures reveal the differences. Bruises occur when a blood vessel breaks beneath the skin, causing blood to get trapped under the skin. Spider veins and varicose veins look bruise-like even when they aren’t broken or bleeding because they’re pressed against the skin.

The color you see with a bruise is blood that’s escaped a blood vessel, while the color you see with spider veins and varicose veins is blood that’s inside the vein. However, spider and varicose veins can also break, and they’re prone to it since they’re pressurized. See a vein doctor to determine whether you have a bruise, a spider vein, a varicose vein, or concurrent issues.

Spider veins look spindly and often appear in clusters. They don’t protrude beneath the skin. Varicose veins look twisted and enlarged. There can be multiple varicose veins, but they don’t develop in clusters, and they’re typically protuberant. Bruises appear as solid areas of discoloration. Spider veins, varicose veins, and bruises can be several colors, like red, blue, purple, or green, depending on your skin tone and how close they are to the surface of the skin.

Do Varicose Veins in Chest Have the Same Cause as Legs?

Spider veins are common in the face because veins are easily injured there, and in the legs because of CVI. Varicose veins are most common in the legs, feet, and pelvic region, because of gravity, CVI, and long periods of sitting or standing that make blood pool in lower extremities.

Varicose veins in the chest are possible but uncommon. See a vein doctor to determine whether it’s a varicose vein, spider vein, or artery that you’re seeing. Some chest veins become more prominent in women during pregnancy or hormonal changes, or as chest skin thins with age. But these aren’t necessarily varicosities.

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?

Some risk factors are unavoidable, such as your family history. But there are lifestyle choices that can lower your risks. Here are wise steps to take.

  • Elevate your legs while at rest.
  • Limit sedentary behavior.
  • Manage your weight.
  • Get daily exercise if possible.
  • Wear compression stockings if your doctor recommends them.
  • Flex calf muscles when seated or standing for long periods.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Manage alcohol, sodium, and caffeine intake.

Does Visiting Vascular and Vein Centers Reduce Risk Factors?

Visiting a vein center is the best way to address what causes spider veins in your legs. Vein doctors have ultrasound technology that identifies vein disease, broken valves, blood clots, spider veins, and varicose veins. Doctors can tell which veins are engorged or blocked by bouncing sound waves off of them.

They produce images that map your unique venous pathways. Vein doctors don’t just treat existing vein damage, they also assess risk factors and stop new damage from developing. Our vein doctors treat varicose veins, spider veins, and underlying causes with quick, outpatient procedures.

What Risk Factors Require a Vein and Pain Treatment Clinic?

The sooner you visit a vein center, the better your chances are for preventing spider veins. But there are some patients who need to be seen as soon as possible.

Signs to go to the emergency room:

  • Uncontrolled bleeding from a varicose or spider vein (sign of rupture or broken valves)
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath with vein damage (sign of a pulmonary embolism)
  • Sudden warm, red, painful area near vein (sign of a blood clot)
  • Widespread, progressive swelling in a leg (sign of deep vein thrombosis)
  • A vein ulceration accompanied by fever, redness, and puss (sign of infection)

Signs to see a vein doctor soon: 

  • Swelling that’s worse at the end of the day
  • Heaviness in legs
  • Cramping in legs
  • Discoloration in lower legs or ankles
  • Itching or venous stasis dermatitis
  • Restlessness in legs

What’s the Sclerotherapy Meaning? Can It Stop Spider Veins?

The best treatment for most spider veins is a minimally invasive procedure. Non-invasive procedures resolve some facial spider veins. But if you have spider veins in the legs, there’s a good chance you have CVI, which requires minimally invasive treatment. If you ignore CVI, more spider veins might develop. Sclerotherapy is a great spider vein treatment because it’s an injectable solution that comes in liquid and foam concentrations, to fill either small or large veins. It irritates vein walls, which causes the vein to close. Sclerotherapy will improve blood flow, as blood is redirected into healthy veins nearby.

Which Vein Doctor Is Best for Leg Vein Removal Near Me in CA?

For leg vein removal in California, visit Dr. Jasmine Koo, Dr. Carly Guthrie, Dr. Billy Schoenfeld, Dr. Walter Lech, or Dr. Amanda Steinberger. These vein doctors are board certified, Harvard-trained, and able to treat varicose veins, spider veins, and CVI without surgery.