Here’s a simple experiment for you: Stand up and hang your arms by your sides for one minute, while keeping your limbs absolutely still. Keep your muscles still, and don’t move them. At the end of one minute, look at your hands and feet. Do you hands and feet now have veins popping out, looking something like this?
If so, then congratulations, you are suffering the “veiny hands” syndrome.
About Circulation, Arteries and Veins
So what exactly causes veiny hands? In a bid to simplify the problem, I’ll provide a short explanation of how our body works:
A human body’s blood circulation system is made up of two halves: the arteries, which bring blood that is rich in oxygen from the heart to the rest of the body, and the veins, which return the deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Understandably, the heart acts as the pump which provides the pressure necessary to push the oxygen-rich blood in our arteries to the far-flung areas of our body – which is usually our limbs. However, by the time blood gets to those areas, the blood pressure has been reduced. Hence, veins have been designed differently from arteries to enable us to return blood to the heart.
To counteract the pressure problem, veins make use of two features to get the blood flowing back to the heart. (see above diagram)
- Local muscle contractions will squeeze the veins and provide pressure locally to pump the blood back to the heart
- Due to the lower pressure, valves are located throughout the veins to prevent the backflow of blood after it has been pumped.
Sounds good, right? Until the latter starts to malfunction, leading to dilated, enlarged veins known as varicose veins, or informally, “spider veins”.
Varicose veins occur when the valves inside our veins begin to malfunction and fail. While this trait is mainly hereditary (passed down through genes), this could also be caused by a variety of other environmental reasons: Prolonged standing/sitting, age (causing vein walls to be thinned out over time), pregnancy, etc. Essentially, the increased volume and pressure of the blood trapped within the veins causes the valves to stop working properly, resulting in blood flowing back down the veins in the opposite direction when it is not supposed to.
This leads to pooling of blood in regions along the veins, causing the veins to be enlarged, sometimes even bulging out from the skin if the veins are near the surface. While in most cases, it is usually benign and harmless, it can occasionally lead to major complications, such as pain in the affected areas, swellings, bleeding, and internal blood clot in severe cases.
Thankfully, there are medical treatments that are available to solve this problem. This usually involves contracting, collapsing, or stripping the damaged veins through both surgical and non-surgical methods, with varying degrees of success. Some people even go as far as to use this for cosmetic purposes, particularly post-pregnancy women.
For the rest of us, who don’t have this as a major problem, simply tilt your limbs skyward, and allow the force of gravity to bring the blood back down to the heart. The “spider veins” will naturally “disappear”.
Are “Spider Veins” a sign of Stress?
Beats me, really. All I know is that prolonged standing and sitting will definitely bring them about. And once the veins are damaged, chances are they won’t heal back again. To avoid this problem, move around once in a while so that your muscle contractions would aid the circulation in your veins, and prevent accumulation of blood.