Spider vs. Varicose Veins: Four Critical Distinctions

While the terms spider veins and varicose veins are often used interchangeably, there are significant differences between these vascular conditions. Those with bulging, twisted veins in the legs should consult a vein specialist who can give a proper diagnosis and recommend effective treatment. There are four key differences between spider and varicose veins.

1. Size / Appearance

While they may look similar, spider veins are smaller than varicose veins. These blue, purple, or red vessels branch out like a spider's web. While they are visible under the skin, they're typically not raised. In contrast, varicose veins are larger, bulge out of the skin, and primarily affect the legs. While spider veins are most common in the legs, they can also affect the chest and face. Both types of veins twist and turn under the skin.


2. Causes

Spider veins develop when blood pools in an area because of hormones, injury, and sun exposure. While varicose veins are also related to a backup of blood circulation, the cause, in this case, is weakened or damaged veins that no longer work correctly. This condition is known as venous insufficiency.


3. Symptoms

Spider veins may look unsightly, but they usually don't cause symptoms. Varicose veins may be asymptomatic, but they can also cause discomfort, throbbing, itching, or aching pain. A vein specialist can provide treatment for varicose veins that have become painful.


4. Complications

Spider veins usually don't require treatment unless their appearance is bothersome. On the other hand, varicose veins must be treated to prevent the development of serious complications. These include sores or skin ulcers, significant blood loss if injury occurs, blood clots just under the skin known as superficial thrombophlebitis, and deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot that can be fatal if it breaks off and travels to the lungs.

Those who are concerned about the appearance or symptoms caused by enlarged or visible leg veins should consult our vein specialists. We can offer both aesthetic and medical treatment options to resolve the issue.

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