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Dear Sugar
I'm in high school and I have spider veins. I am definitely not overweight and I eat right, so why am I getting them so young? Because of my thin skin and fair complexion they're pretty noticeable and give my legs the appearance of a shriveled old woman. Is there anything I can do short of surgery (my mother refuses) to minimize their appearance? Veiny Janey

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Dear Veiny Janey
Unfortunately you are not alone, but don't panic. Studies from the University of Pennsylvania show that in the U.S. alone, more than 75% of women and 50% of men have varicose veins in their legs - and women are two to four times more likely to develop them then men.

Spider veins (aka a less serious form of Varicose veins) are caused by changes in the body's levels of female hormones (estrogen and progesterone). This is perhaps why you may have started developing them around the same time as puberty.

They also happen to be genetic. So if your parents have them, there is strong chance that heredity has preditermined the relationship between you and spider veins. But don't worry - there are two types of very effective treatments available.

Laser is great for minimizing or removing spider veins. Find a dermatologist that offers laser treatment. When you are calling around, make sure that the practitioner providing the service has been well trained since not every dermatologist treats spider veins.

Sclerotherapy is a technique that uses a very thin needle to inject a sclerosing agent into the veins to eliminate them. The sclerosing agent destroys the inner lining of the blood vessel ceasing blood flow without damaging the surrounding tissues.

Once you've had either of these treatments, here are some precautions you can take to try and prevent more spider/varicose veins from developing:

  • Try not to sit completely stationary for any more than three or four hours at a time.
  • Stop smoking
  • Lose weight. You are only straining your legs if you are over your reommended body weight by 20% or more.
  • Make sure you are drinking plenty of water so your bowel movements are fluid. Believe it or not - straining while you are on the potty puts pressure on your rectal veins which can travel to the veins in your legs.
  • Wear support hose.
  • Whenever possible, keep your legs elevated.
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