When your body is functioning normally, it’s hard to pay much attention to your circulatory system. After all, it’s hard to see your blood pumping. But occasionally, your veins will act up and it will be time for medical treatment. Be on the lookout for varicose and spider veins. Usually found on the legs, varicose veins are stretched or swollen veins that appear near the surface of the skin; they resemble unsightly ropes. Spider veins are dilated capillary veins found just below the skin surface on the legs or face. Blue, red, or purple-colored veins look like a spider web.

A doctor who has experience treating both conditions says family history plays a large role and that women are more likely to be affected because of female hormones and pregnancies. In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Luis Navarro, MD, founder and director of the Vein Treatment Center in New York City, says varicose and spider veins can also strike young people in their 20s.

Navarro says symptoms of varicose veins are cosmetic at the onset because people don’t like how the veins look. “Then they have heaviness, achiness of the legs…then it progresses to swelling at the ankles. Swelling comes and goes, then it becomes chronic.” Complications can include a darkening ankle color, infections, bleeding and ulcers. Usually, these conditions are not life threatening. Says Navarro, “The disease takes a long time to evolve. You can have veins for 15 to 20 years with not many problems, except cosmetic ones.”

Lifestyle, such as obesity and lack of exercise, can have an impact on the formation of these veins. Navarro cautions against standing too much. “Anything that strengthens the muscles of the leg will delay the appearance of these veins.” He says there’s a higher incidence among those who have to stand all day at work, such as nurses, flight attendants and waitresses. Navarro says exercise and dietary fiber will not only help your veins, but help your heart. Other lifestyle variables include birth control pills, constipation and aging.

The sooner varicose and spider veins are treated, the better, says Navarro, noting that all spider veins and small and medium-sized varicose veins can be treated with sclerotherapy, where a chemical compound is injected into the veins. Sclerotherapy collapses the veins. Other treatments, performed at Navarro’s clinic, include laser therapy and Endolaser.

According to Navarro, there are myths and misconceptions in his field of expertise. It’s not true that crossing your legs will result in varicose and spider veins. Also, Navarro says it hasn’t been proven that high heels have an impact.

Oddly enough, Navarro says men respond to these vein conditions differently. Men usually see the doctor when varicose veins become severe. This is because, according to Navarro, men wear pants and their legs can be covered with hair. Men and women need to find a doctor that specializes exclusively, or almost exclusively, in treating varicose and spider veins, according to Navarro. “Technique makes a very big difference in treatment.”

You can learn more about varicose and spider veins at www.veintreatmentcenter.com