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Spider Veins VS Varicose Veins

Written By: Emma Squillace

Do you have visible veins, especially on your legs? If so, you’re probably like millions of adults who suffer from either varicose veins or spider veins. Both types of veins cause aggravation for many people who are self-conscious about wearing summer clothes, or suffer side-effects of these veins like itching, redness, and pain. Here are some of the differences between varicose and spider veins:


In terms of how they look, varicose veins are generally more extreme in appearance. They can cause raised bumps under the skin, and a long length of vein can be visible with either a red, blue, or flesh-colored look. Sometimes you can see that the varicose vein is twisted or bunched up beneath your skin. Spider veins, on the other hand, tend to look like spider webs or little star-bursts. These veins are flat, and do not have the “bunched-cord” look of varicose veins. The starbursts of spider veins are usually purple, blue or red.


Spider veins are caused by small blood vessels, close to the surface of the skin, that become dilated. Varicose veins are caused by an insufficiency in blood flow through certain veins. The problems that cause varicose veins are deeper in the leg than those that lead to spider veins. Both types of veins can be caused, in part, by standing a lot, using birth control pills, other hormone replacement treatment, or carrying extra weight. People who are overweight or obese develop spider and varicose veins more easily because extra weight puts extra pressure on the blood supply to the legs.  Additionally, your genes play a fairly large role in whether or not you’ll develop these veins. If your mom or grandma complained about varicose and spider veins, there’s more of a chance that you’ll follow in their footsteps.


While we wish we could tell you there is a clear way to prevent either varicose or spider veins, it’s not as easy as we’d hope. There are certainly steps you can take to lower your risk of developing either type of vein, but there is no way to guarantee these won’t become a reality, especially as we age. One way you can lower your risk is to maintain a healthy weight, since this lowers the amount of pressure on your legs. Another step you can take is to try not to stand or sit in one position for too long. If you have a job such as a teacher, nurse, driver, or office worker, you may be stuck sitting or standing for hours. If possible, try to find small breaks at work to change position. Just a few minutes with your legs raised, or a 5-minute brisk walk, can restore blood flow and help prevent these veins.


While we know it’s bad news that there is no sure-fire way to prevent spider or varicose veins, the good news is that both are treatable. A few decades ago, people underwent fairly major procedures to eliminate spider or varicose veins. Today, medical innovation allows vein experts, like those at West Medical, to treat spider and varicose veins with minimally-invasive treatments that have little to no down time. First, there are some lifestyle changes you can try, in order to lessen these veins, include wearing compression stockings. While this is sometimes effective, the majority of times, medical treatments are more effective and permanent.  The treatments we offer include: sclerotherapy, which is a relatively painless treatment that doesn’t even require anesthesia; laser vein removal, which is another minimally invasive option with very little down time; microphlebectomy which involves numbing the area, and using a small hook to remove a varicose vein; and stripping and ligation which is a more invasive option used for more serious varicose veins.

Many people will develop either spider veins, varicose veins, or both. While you can use our tips for helping to tell which type of veins you have, the best advice we can give you is to come in for a consultation. A true vein expert can look at your problem areas, and potentially perform tests like an ultrasound, which help to confirm which type of veins you’re dealing with. In that same consultation we can help you understand the treatment options, and which may be best for your case. For some, the combination of heredity, hormones, and other factors out of your control will mean you inevitably end up with some of these visible veins. If you have developed spider or varicose veins and would like to learn about your treatment options, we’d love to speak with you. To ask us a question or schedule a consultation, please call our offices at (855) 690-0565.

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