Most of us are well aware of the importance of sunscreen in protecting our skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun, and that prolonged exposure to the sun without sunblock or another type of protection can lead to wrinkles, and dark spots, or skin cancer.
However, direct exposure to the sun without protection can also be harmful to the vascular system, causing spider veins to appear on the skin or worsening existing vein-related problems.
Why Sun Exposure Causes Spider Veins
Spider veins occur when veins near the surface of the skin get damaged, broken, and enlarged. The name comes from these veins’ characteristic spindly, web-like, or branching patterns, which appear with red, blue, or purple discoloration. They most often occur on the face and legs, but can also appear on the chest, abdomen, arms, back, and other areas of the body. While not usually painful or dangerous, many people choose to treat spider veins for cosmetic reasons and take active steps to avoid them.
Collagen is a key component found within the body’s connective tissues that provides strength and structural support to your blood vessels. Direct sun exposure can cause the breakdown of collagen under the skin, leaving blood vessels vulnerable to damage. During this process, veins pop up to the surface right below the skin forming spider veins. This is extra visible in fair-skinned individuals.
Varicose veins, which are gnarled and swollen, aren’t directly created by sun exposure, however, they can grow worse. The heat from the sun causes the veins to take in more blood and swell further, which can be painful.
How to Prevent Spider Veins from Occurring Due to Sun Exposure
If you’re trying to avoid spider veins, you may be tempted to avoid sun exposure altogether. However, unless you’ve recently undergone treatment for spider or varicose veins (in which case you should avoid direct sun exposure for a few weeks) that’s not necessary. Spending time in the sunshine actually has many positive health benefits.
What is necessary is the proper use of sunscreen, whether you’re at the beach, the golf course, in the backyard, or just walking around the block. Apply a thorough layer of sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure, making sure you’re covering all exposed skin, and reapply frequently throughout your time outdoors.
In addition to sunscreen, it can be helpful to wear a large-brimmed hat and clothing that covers the skin. The sun is at its strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so try to limit the time you spend outdoors during those hours whenever possible.
Southern Utah Vein & Vascular Center
If you’re experiencing spider veins, varicose veins, or other vein problems, Heart of Dixie Vein and Vascular Center can help with diagnosis and management as well as sclerotherapy and other treatments. With clinics in St. George, Cedar City, Kanab, Beaver, and Mesquite, we provide high-quality cardiovascular treatment to patients throughout southern Utah and Nevada. Each of our cardiovascular professionals has extensive experience in vascular treatments and providing compassionate, personalized care. Contact us today for more information or to set up an appointment with our team.