Spider and Varicose Vein Differences and Treatment

by | Jan 7, 2021 | Blog | 0 comments

What’s the difference between spider veins and varicose veins?

Spider veins and varicose veins are both abnormal and dilated blood vessels usually found in the legs. They are caused when the walls and valves of the legs veins weaken, causing blood to pool in the veins. This increased volume of blood in the veins enlarges them, ending with visible bluish or red veins appearing.

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Either type of vein problem is typical in adults–half of those 50 years old and over are affected by varicose veins; most of them (but not all) being found in women. Your risk of developing varicose or spider veins is based on several factors such as family history, age, gender, and lifestyle, among others.

Essentially, spider veins are small, superficial blood vessels visible through the skin, while varicose veins are swollen, twisted, and raised blood vessels under the skin.

It’s important to clarify that although someone can have both spider veins and varicose veins, spider veins don’t always become varicose veins.

Spider and varicose veins are fairly common; and while some might think they are similar, they are actually very different. Either way, treatment is available and effective for both spider and varicose veins. To help with understanding the differences between these types of veins, below are a few ways that they differ.

Varicose Veins vs. Spider Veins


One of the main differences between spider veins and varicose veins is that spider veins appear to be smaller in size (typically less than 1mm in diameter) and superficial. These veins twist and turn and can have a blue, purple, or green color. Since they are more superficial, they are not painful. Spider veins usually can be found on the legs, chest, and face.

In contrast, varicose veins appear swollen, twisted, and raised above the skin. They are also often dark blue in color and can be very painful. Varicose veins typically develop in the legs and can be seen through the skin.

Varicose veins can have multiple causes but in general time and gravity will increase the pressure on your veins, causing them to dilate and enlarge. This can result in only aesthetic concerns for some but for others they can be painful and be indicative of more serious health complications.


As mentioned above, another difference between spider veins and varicose veins is that varicose veins often feel painful. Far from being simply cosmetic, they can also cause swelling, discomfort, and a feeling of heaviness in the legs. Spider veins, on the other hand, do not typically feel painful and appear as tiny red or blue lines just below the surface of the skin. They generally don’t lead to other health complications.

Treatment for spider veins is also generally considered to be cosmetic in nature while treatment for varicose veins is more intensive. If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to serious issues including spontaneous bleeding, thick and discolored skin, sores that fail to heal, and blood clots.

Are spider veins and varicose veins related?

Yes, they are related in that they both have to do with the broader health issue known as venous insufficiency, which means they have to do with problems with your veins’ ability to move blood through your circulatory system and prevent it from pooling. They are both abnormal, dilated blood vessels that are caused by a weakening of the veins. They differ in how they present themselves.

Causes of Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

Veins are responsible for carrying deoxygenated blood back to our hearts. The blood flows through one-way valves in our veins which prevent the blood from flowing backward. Complications can result in valve failure, however, causing the pressure in the vein to increase. This can result in varicose veins.

Factors that can increase the chances of developing varicose veins include:

  • Obesity
  • Heredity
  • Occupations that involve considerable time standing
  • History of blood clots
  • Use of birth control pills
  • Conditions that cause increased pressure on the abdomen such as constipation
  • Hormones tied to pregnancy, puberty, or menopause
  • Postmenopausal hormone replacement

At the same time, sometimes the pressure in varicose veins can spread into the very small blood vessels in the skin, forcing them to spread out and resemble the branches of a tree or a spider web, hence “spider” veins.


Virginia Vein Care is an IAC-certified vein center and is ready to treat both spider and varicose veins. We have nearly 30 years of experience treating a wide range of vein conditions that include varicose veins, spider veins, venous ulcers, and more.

Some treatment options for varicose and spider veins include:

  • Sclerotherapy: a sclerosing agent is injected directly into the affected vein, making it disappear slowly over a few weeks. This procedure is simple, inexpensive, and is performed in an outpatient setting.
  • Changes in lifestyle: if obesity is found to be the root cause of the spider veins or varicose veins, losing weight and increasing activity levels can help in managing them.
  • Endovenous ablation: this process involves a tiny laser fiber or radiofrequency catheter inserted into your vein. The vein is then heated up from the inside, causing it to close. This is also a simple outpatient procedure.

Dr. Markovitz uses advanced, minimally invasive methods such as radiofrequency and laser ablation which have proven to be incredibly effective in treating various types of vein issues.

When to see a Doctor for Your Spider and Varicose Veins

It’s always smart to refer to your healthcare professional when you have medical concerns.

Connect with a trained vascular specialist if you notice any of the following conditions:

  • The skin on your ankle or call changes color
  • Your veins have become swollen, red, tender or warm to the touch
  • Your varicose veins start to bleed
  • Your symptoms prevent your from your regular activities
  • You notice sores or a rash on your leg or near your ankle

When searching for a professional center that offers varicose and spider vein removal call or visit Virginia Vein Care to book your appointment today.