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Varicose Veins and Spider Veins: Symptoms and Treatment

Spider Veins

Varicose veins and spider veins are twisted and turned veins that often appear on the legs. Women are most likely to be affected by both veins. Pregnancy, older age, and obesity can pose great risks for both varicose and spider veins. They are usually painless, and they don’t cause any health problems. If you have any symptoms and want to remove them, consult a healthcare provider.

According to an estimation, 1/3 of the adult population is affected by these veins. Here we’ll discuss symptoms and treatments in detail, along with other related aspects. 

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are twisting and turning into large, raised swollen blood vessels. They typically develop in the legs, and you can see through the skin. These veins appear because of weakening in the blood vessel wall or faulty valves. The legs or pelvic area are usually the places where they appear; however, they can show up anywhere on the body.

Varicose veins can be painful or itchy. Apart from being unsightly and uncomfortable, they aren’t dangerous for most people. In serious cases, varicose veins can lead to harmful health issues, such as blood clots. Symptoms are treatable at home, or a healthcare provider can treat them with injections, surgery, or laser therapy. 

Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
Spider veins

What are spider veins?

Spider veins are smaller, red, purple, and blue vessels that can also twist and turn like varicose veins. They are also visible through the skin. The body’s smallest blood vessels are affected by them. They are blue or red and look like a spider’s web or tree branch. Legs and faces are usually the places where they’re visible. Spider veins may also surround varicose veins.

Spider angioma, or spider nervousness, is the usual development of small blood vessels. The name comes from its appearance. A central red blood vessel with small capillaries radiating from it resembles a spider. The vascular cluster poses no harm. 

Differences between varicose veins and spider veins

Varicose veins and spider veins look different, but they are types of venous disease. Spider veins are smaller and thinner as compared to varicose veins. They are close to the skin’s surface, giving red or blue spider webs or branches on a tree.

Spider veins aren’t painful and appear anywhere on the body. However, behind your knee, on your feet, or your face are the most common places. Whereas, varicose veins usually appear on feet and legs. 

Spider veins

Differences between varicose veins and spider veins

There is no specific thing about varicose vein development. However, there are certain factors in which the chances of development are high, such as:

Gender: Females are likely to develop varicose veins because their hormones can allow the walls of the veins to stretch. The likelihood increases in pregnant women because they take birth control pills or go through menopause. Changes in hormone levels can cause varicose veins.

Age: Vein walls and valves don’t work well as we age. This leads to less elasticity and stiffness, which can cause varicose veins.

Family history: This condition may also run in families.

Lifestyle: Circulation decreases if you sit or stand for long periods. Girdles or pants with tight waistbands, like restrictive clothing, can also decrease blood flow.

Weight: Excessive weight means more pressure on blood vessels, which can cause varicose veins.

Tobacco use: Varicose veins are highly likely to develop in tobacco product users.

Overall health: Severe constipation or certain tumors, like certain health conditions, can increase pressure in the veins.

How are varicose and spider veins common?

Around 1/3 of all adults have varicose veins, which shows how common varicose veins are. However, females, especially those taking birth control, are likely to develop varicose veins because their hormones can allow the walls to stretch.

Spider veins affect more than 50% of women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB). After age 80, they become even more common. 

Spider veins

Symptoms and causes

Varicose Veins

Varicose vein signs are easily recognizable, like a gnarled, blue, or purple vein just under your skin’s surface. Symptoms may include:

Heavy legs: Tired, heavy, or sluggish, especially after physical activity, are a sign of varicose veins.

Bulging veins: Twisted, swollen, rope-like veins usually look blue or purple. They often appear just below the surface of the skin on your legs, ankles, and feet. They can develop in clusters with spider veins nearby.

Skin discolorations and ulcers: Varicose veins can cause brown discolorations on your skin if you leave them untreated. Venous ulcers (sores) on your skin can happen because of severe varicose veins.

Swelling: They can cause swelling and throbbing on the legs, ankles, and feet.

Pain: Painful, achy, or sore may feel, especially behind your knees. You may have cramps.

Itching: The area around varicose veins itches. 

Diagnosis and tests

Varicose veins are easily visible because they are close to the surface of your skin. Healthcare providers can diagnose if you have varicose veins during the physical examination. They’ll feel anew when you examine your veins in sitting and standing positions.

Your healthcare provider may recommend an ultrasound to see detailed images of your veins and check for complications. This is a safe and painless test that uses sound waves to produce pictures of tissues inside your body. You can see now that your valves are working. 

Treatment for varicose veins

There is no cure for varicose veins. However, these treatments can reduce their appearance and relieve discomfort:

Elastic stockings: supportive stockings or socks reduce discomfort by compressing veins. This stops veins from stretching and helps blood flow.

Injection therapy: A healthcare provider injects a solution into your vein in this therapy. This causes veins to stick together. Eventually, veins fade away after turning into scar tissue.

Vein surgery: These procedures are also called ligation and stripping. The surgeon stops blood from pooling, tying off your affected vein. This is ligation. The surgeon may remove (strip) the vein so varicose veins stop reappearing.

Laser therapy: A healthcare provider closes off a damaged vein using a catheter (a long, thin tube) and laser.

Elevation: Throughout the day, elevate your legs above your waist several times. This will increase blood flow and decrease pressure on the veins. 

Spider Veins

Spider veins are small blood vessels just under your skin that weaken and expand. Causes aren’t always clear as to why they happen. Some common causes are:

  • Genetic syndromes.
  • Connective tissue diseases
  • Injury or trauma
  • Hormonal changes

Spider veins don’t cause symptoms except some after standing for a while. Symptoms, or spider veins, are:

  • Itching
  • Legs that feel tired.
  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Cramping

However, these symptoms can be unrelated to spider veins and don’t improve spider veins with treatment. 

Diagnosis and tests

A healthcare provider diagnoses spider veins.

  • Performs a physical exam
  • Ask about your medical history
  • Biological family history

The provider looks for signs of CVI to determine if spider veins indicate any serious blood flow problems. In the case of CVI, you’ll have to see a vascular surgeon for further evaluation and treatment. 

Spider Vein Treatment

Treatments include:

Laser therapy: This is a non-invasive treatment usually done for spider veins on your face. A provider uses a laser to create heat to destroy spider veins. Small spider veins disappear eight hours away, but larger ones may take two to three months. Some people may have to go through longer sessions.

Sclerotherapy: This is a minimally invasive treatment option when a healthcare provider injects a chemical solution into your spider vein to close it off. Spider veins go away in three to six weeks. Some people may need several sessions. 

Questions to ask your doctor about treatment

Several different ways and other aspects of treatment are worth asking your doctor. You can start by asking about the most suitable treatment. You may ask:

Which is the best treatment for varicose veins for me?

Then ask about the location of the treatment.

Is the treatment available at your office?

This question puts you at an advantage. If the treatment isn’t available, the doctor may prescribe a better location. The next question may be:

Which is the most effective treatment for varicose veins?


What are the causes of varicose veins?

Weak walls of your veins are the common cause of varicose veins. The weakened walls allow your veins to get bigger as blood pressure increases in your veins. As your vein stretches, the valves stop working the way they should. Veins start swelling, bulging, or twisting as sluggish blood backs up or pools in your veins.

There are several other reasons behind weak vein walls and valves:

  • Excess weight.
  • Restrictive clothing
  • Standing for long periods
  • The aging process

Why do varicose veins and spider veins often appear in the legs?

Legs are a common place for these veins, where they usually appear. Legs carry blood to your heart against gravity, which is the longest distance in our body. This is why varicose and spider veins usually appear in the legs.

Are treatments for varicose and spider veins permanent solutions?

The answer is yes and no! There is no permanent solution because they develop again over time. Aging and family medical history-like factors are hard to avoid in both varicose and spider veins. If you have new symptoms, you may have to get treatment again.

Final Thoughts

1/3 of the adult population faces varicose and spider vein conditions. There is no permanent solution for either condition, as they develop over time. You may not be able to prevent it when you’re pregnant or have a family medical history. Age-related uncontrollable factors are also unavoidable and can cause varicose and spider veins.

Exercise and weight loss are some steps you can take at home to stop these conditions. Wearing support stockings also works for many people. Moreover, you can also consult a healthcare provider to get treatment for both conditions.

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This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.

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