Spider Veins and Varicose Veins: What’s the Difference?

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Monday, 8 May 2017

You may think that spider veins and varicose veins are two different names for the same condition. While it’s true that both spider veins and varicose veins have similar causes, symptoms, and treatments, they are not the same condition. This blog was written to explain the difference between varicose veins and spider veins, including symptoms, potential risks, and treatments for each condition.

Comparing And Contrasting Spider Veins And Varicose Veins

Causes Of Spider And Varicose Veins Are Largely Similar

Spider veins and varicose veins, for the most part, share the same causes, including:

  • These risks, or a combination of them, increase your risks of developing a venous disease.Genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Being overweight
  • Sitting or standing still for long periods of time
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • High-heeled footwear and tight, restrictive clothing
  • Aging

Symptoms Of Varicose Veins And Spider Veins: Similarities And Differences

The symptoms of varicose and spider veins are similar in some respects and different in others.

Appearance: Spider veins are delicate (< 1 mm), visible red, purple or blue veins that branch out like a spider web. Varicose veins are larger (3 mm or >) tortuous red, purple or blue veins that bulge from the skin surface and may extend into the thigh and leg.

Discomfort/Pain: Most spider veins are asymptomatic. However, if you have spider veins you may complain of itching, burning, stinging and on occasion secondary skin conditions. Varicose veins, on the other hand, may cause symptoms such as heaviness, aching, swelling, throbbing, itching, leg fatigue, night cramps and restless legs.

Secondary Conditions: Spider veins generally are more of a cosmetic concern. Though in some cases, your spider veins may bleed simply by scrubbing the skin too hard or bumping into something. Sometimes the bleeding may cause a bruise beneath the skin, while other times it may bleed through the skin. The most common secondary conditions you may suffer from your varicose veins include pain, swelling, skin changes and ulcers. Varicose veins like spider veins can also bleed. Depending on the severity of varicosity, this bleeding may require a trip to the emergency room. Varicose veins are also more prone to develop blood clots which if dislodged can travel to the lungs causing a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism (PE).

Treatments For Spider Veins And Varicose Veins

Most of you seek a procedure for your spider veins out of a cosmetic concern. However, varicose veins often require a procedure based on the severity of varicosity, physical symptoms, complications, and your cosmetic desires.

When you receive treatment, we recommend one or more of the following:

Compression Wear: Both spider veins and varicose veins can benefit from compression wear to reduce symptoms and slow progression. In fact, we recommend compression wear for most people who are in one or more of the high-risk categories listed above.

Conservative Care: In addition to compression wear, we recommend several other conservative measures for our patients. These Better Veins for Life Principles include a regular exercise program, daily leg elevation, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding high heels to alleviate the symptoms of your varicose veins and slow their progression. Even with conservative care, you should discuss your options with our team before you get started.

Patient with Spider Veins and Varicose Veins treated at VSS

Treatment of Spider Veins

Sclerotherapy: Spider veins and varicose veins can both be treated using a medical procedure involving a sclerosing agent being injected into the affected vein. Sclerotherapy for spider veins is the gold standard. Sclerotherapy for varicose veins is one of many treatments available. Dr. Harper and his team of specialists will recommend the best treatment for your condition.

Laser Therapy: We do not use lasers for varicose veins on the legs. However, facial spider veins and facial redness respond well to laser therapy.

Treatment of Varicose Veins

Ambulatory Phlebectomy: This minimally invasive treatment uses local anesthesia and micro incisions (2-3 mm) to remove large, bulging varicose veins.

Treatment of Saphenous Vein Reflux

Endovenous Therapy: Heat in the form of radiofrequency and laser energy replaced vein stripping in the year 2000 and is used to treat the underlying cause of venous disease, saphenous reflux. Reflux in the saphenous veins is the most common cause of spider veins and varicose veins. Eliminating saphenous reflux can relieve the feeding source of the problem and pave the way for successful treatment spider and varicose veins.

Varithena: For saphenous reflux and varicose veins, this injectable chemical foam is introduced into the great saphenous vein and surrounding veins under ultrasound guidance to treat venous reflux, the underlying cause of varicose veins. Additional treatments may be necessary. Varithena may have a secondary effect on spider veins, but it isn’t used to treat them directly.

VenaSeal: This medical grade adhesive placed under ultrasound guidance seals the refluxing saphenous vein using a minimally invasive, pain-free procedure to correct the venous reflux. Treating the underlying cause of varicose veins, saphenous reflux reduces the symptoms of venous disease. This treatment isn’t directly used for spider veins but can have a secondary effect on them.

Spider Veins And Varicose Veins In Central Georgia At Vein Specialists Of The South

At Vein Specialists of the South, we are specialists in the evaluation and treatment of spider veins and varicose veins. One of the first vein specialists in the United States, Dr. Harper is a leader in vein care providing comprehensive vein care treating both the underlying cause of your vein disease and the visible spider and varicose veins.

In addition to treating varicose veins, spider veins, blood clots, and lymphedema, our team also lectures and instructs other physicians in vein care. We were the first practice in Georgia to perform the minimally invasive endovenous closure procedure in 2000 and Dr. Harper introduced micro ambulatory phlebectomy to the area.

When you come to Vein Specialists of the South, you’re entrusting your care to the best of the best. Schedule a consultation in Downtown Macon or Warner Robins and get on the path to having healthier and BetterLooking® legs for life.

Over 18,000 Procedures Performed

Dr. Kenneth Harper, founder of Vein Specialists of the South, has evaluated more than 22,000 patients and performed over 18,000 procedures since 2000. Dr. Harper is a leader in comprehensive vein care, having focused on diagnosis and treatments for varicose veins, spider veins, venous ulcers, and leg swelling since 1997.


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Are embarrassing Varicose Veins keeping you from wearing shorts?

  • Understand the underlying cause of varicose veins.
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  • Choose the best treatment options to meet your needs.

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