If you suffer from spider veins or have a family history of them, you might wonder if certain activities can make them more likely to occur.
Spider veins are generally a cosmetic problem, but they can become more serious, causing physical irritation.
This article will look at spider veins in general and also in specific relation to scuba diving.
We will see that no, there isn’t any evidence that scuba diving causes spider veins.
Indeed we will consider how scuba diving might actually help to prevent or reduce spider vein occurrence.
- What Are Spider Veins?
- What Causes Spider Veins?
- How Do You Treat and Prevent Spider Veins?
- Can Scuba Diving Cause Spider Veins?
- Can I Scuba Dive With Spider Veins?
- Can I Scuba Dive after Spider Vein Surgery?
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What Are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are small areas of damaged venous blood vessels under the skin that mostly occur on the legs or face.
They form visible thin lines, branches, or twisted “spider” webs that are red, blue, or purple colored.
Spider veins are not ordinarily irritating or harmful; generally, people are only concerned about them for cosmetic reasons.
However, they can occasionally become inflamed, itchy, or tender to touch, and in extreme cases, can cause ulcers on the skin.
What Causes Spider Veins?
Normal, healthy veins carry blood towards the heart.
This blood is prevented from flowing backward by one-way valves in the veins.
Spider veins occur when these valves stop working correctly and allow blood to flow backward or they block, preventing blood from flowing towards the heart at all.
This can cause blood to pool inside the vein and pressure to build up.
Increased pressure can cause the vessel wall to weaken, and over time, causes the vein to bulge and twist or branch out under the skin surface and form a dead-end spider vein containing the pooled blood.
Anyone can get spider veins, but it is said that women are twice as susceptible as men.
Factors that predispose someone to suffer from spider veins include:
- A family history of suffering from them
- Occupations or activities that involve considerable, repetitive time spent standing
- Poor diet
- Lack of physical exercise
- Pregnancy, puberty, and menopause
- Birth control pills
- Hormonal replacement therapy
- Prior trauma or surgery, particularly in the legs
- A history of blood clots
So avoiding these factors where possible can help limit the occurrence of spider veins.
How Do You Treat and Prevent Spider Veins?
For most people, spider veins don’t need to be treated unless they are causing ulcers or other irritations.
If they are causing problems or you want them removed for cosmetic reasons, then several options might help before resorting to surgery.
If the veins are causing occasional problems such as pain, soreness, and muscle cramping in the legs, the most common treatment is to use compression or support stockings.
These apply compression to the legs and improve circulation, and can relieve leg pain and discomfort.
As with many ailments, getting plenty of good physical exercise and maintaining good general health is vital to prevent spider veins.
Physical exercise helps weight loss and can keep leg muscles toned and assist the blood in flowing correctly.
Obesity and issues connected with a poor diet can make spider veins more likely.
A low salt diet can assist with good circulatory health.
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause blood pressure changes and encourage broken blood vessels, particularly in the face.
In jobs that require you to stand for a long time, then regular stretching of leg muscles to increase circulation can help.
For someone with a job that involves a long period of sitting down, then getting up and walking at least every thirty minutes can be beneficial.
Suffers of leg spider veins find that elevating the legs when sitting can partially alleviate the problem by helping prevent blood from pooling in the legs.
If spider veins in the face are an issue, then strong sunscreen should be used to provide protection and prevent new veins from occurring.
Surgical Treatments for Spider Veins
If the proactive treatments mentioned above are not sufficient to alleviate any problems that the patient is suffering or if they want to remove spider veins for cosmetic reasons, then there are two main medical procedures available to remove or reduce the veins.
Sclerotherapy treatment uses a specialist caustic salt solution that is injected into the vein by a doctor to cause it to collapse and effectively kill it.
Veins treated in this way generally disappear in three to six weeks, although repeat treatments can be needed.
This treatment can be quite painful.
Laser therapy destroys spider veins with pulses of laser light that produce heat inside the vein.
The heat causes blood clots and scar tissue, which close off the vein causing it to die and eventually disappear.
Generally, more than one session is needed to get complete results.
It can take considerably longer for the veins to disappear than with sclerotherapy, but it is usually less painful.
In both cases, new veins will likely occur at the same rate as they did before, and so any medical treatment should be combined with appropriate lifestyle changes where possible.
Can Scuba Diving Cause Spider Veins?
No, there isn’t any evidence that scuba diving can cause spider veins.
The generally accepted causes of spider veins, such as standing for long periods, being overly sedentary or obese, typically do not go hand in hand with scuba diving.
Scuba diving could, in fact, theoretically help to reduce the occurrence of spider veins.
A standard piece of advice to prevent spider veins is to get plenty of exercise, and scuba diving can indeed be good exercise.
Scuba diving is an aerobic, low-impact exercise that keeps blood pumping without risk of joint injury.
Scuba diving can help to lose weight and keep leg muscles toned, which is likely to allow the blood to flow freely, potentially helping to reduce the chances of getting spider veins.
Additionally, scuba divers are exercising horizontally during the dive.
The legs are more level with the chest and head, meaning that blood will not have increased pressure down towards the legs that can encourage spider vein formation.
It is even suggested that wearing a wetsuit could have a similar effect to the support stockings used to treat some spider veins by applying pressure on the legs and at least providing temporary relief.
Can I Scuba Dive With Spider Veins?
While you should always discuss any concerns with your doctor, all available evidence says that yes, you can scuba dive with spider veins.
Can I Scuba Dive after Spider Vein Surgery?
If a diver has received surgery to remove spider veins, then the good news is that they can scuba dive again afterward.
“A return to diving is appropriate after you have fully recovered from the procedure and you are released for full and unrestricted activity.”
We’ve seen that there is no evidence that scuba diving causes spider veins.
Indeed it could reasonably be assumed that the general physical exercise and the benefits of the horizontal position and pressure changes pushing blood away from the legs while scuba diving could actually, at least temporarily, reduce or discourage spider vein formation.