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Varicose Veins vs Spider Veins: Which Do You Have?

December 28, 2017

spider veins on feet.jpg 

It’s happening way too much. You’re heading out for a night on the town and want to wear a skirt. Or you’re thinking about wearing shorts to the park or a beach. The trouble is the purple and blue veins in your leg staring back at you. You’re not sure what they are, so you begin the varicose veins vs spider veins debate.

The fact is about 30 percent of women and 20 percent of men are dealing with a vein issue. That means when you’re talking varicose veins vs spider veins, chances are, you know someone who may also be dealing with them.

So, let’s go round by round in this battle of varicose veins vs spider veins to find out the causes, the symptoms, and what you can do to treat each condition.

Varicose Veins vs Spider Veins—Round 1: Appearance

One of the big differences between varicose and spider veins is their appearance.

Spider veins are:

  • Small, thin, purple, blue, or red veins
  • Can show up anywhere on your leg
  • Very close to the skin

Varicose veins are:

  • Larger, darker, stretched-out veins where blood has pooled
  • Tend to bulge, look “ropey”
  • Blue in color

Dr. Ram Ravi, a vein specialist at North Ohio Heart/Ohio Medical Group, says it’s important to get your varicose and spider veins treated to avoid long-term complications like stasis dermatitis. It develops when abnormal veins cause blood to pool in your lower legs. This could lead to things like skin ulcers and blood clots.

Varicose Veins vs Spider Veins—Round 2: Causes

Although varicose veins and spider veins may look different, they tend to have similar causes.

Spider veins are caused by things like:

  • Abnormal veins cause poor circulation
  • Hormone changes
  • Exposure to the sun
  • Injuries

Causes of varicose veins include:

  • Poor Circulation
  • Age
  • Pregnancy

Dr. Ravi says other risk factors for varicose veins are living a sedentary lifestyle, multiple pregnancies, smoking, and family history.

Varicose Veins vs Spider Veins—Round 3: Symptoms

Most spider veins are a cosmetic concern. However, if you have spider veins you may complain of things like:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Stinging

But the symptoms of varicose veins include:

  • Aching
  • Feels heavy
  • Swelling
  • Throbbing
  • Itching
  • Leg fatigue
  • Night cramps
  • Restless legs

Varicose Veins vs Spider Veins—Round 4: Treatment

Lifestyle changes like weight loss and walking can help treat varicose veins and spider veins. You can also try compression stockings.

If these conservative methods do not get your spider veins under control, your vein specialist will most likely recommend one of several treatments including:

  1. Sclerotherapy—A sclerosing solution will be injected into the unwanted vein, which shrinks and dissolves over time. For larger veins a foam sclerosant may be used.
  2. Laser Therapy—Facial spider veins and facial redness respond well to laser therapy. Laser therapy is also a good option if you have a fear of needles.
  3. Endovenous Laser Treatment—A small laser fiber is inserted into the vein.
  4. Ambulatory Phlebectomy—This minimally invasive procedure uses local anesthesia and very small incisions to remove large, bulging varicose veins.

Dr. Ravi says these are outpatient procedures that are well tolerated. They cause minimum pain and side effects. You may see some bruising, swelling, or discoloration after your procedure. Dr. Ravi adds that most insurances will cover the treatment of varicose and spider veins if conservative methods fail.

If you have more questions about varicose veins and how to control them, check out our free download “A Patient’s Guide to Varicose Veins.”

 Free Download: Varicose Vein Treatment