What Is the Difference Between Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?

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Varicose veins, spider veins

Are you confused about the difference between varicose veins and spider veins? That’s certainly understandable. After all, both of these venous conditions can be unsightly, affect the legs, and often cause painful or uncomfortable symptoms. They are also both signs of underlying vein disease. When left untreated, varicose and spider veins can put you at risk for developing serious health problems.

At USA Vein Clinics, we want to answer all of your questions about varicose and spider veins. Should you be concerned by their presence? What treatment options are available? How do you know which treatment is right for you? Below, you can learn about varicose veins, spider veins, and minimally-invasive treatments that can improve your life. Beyond that, our vein specialists are available to address any additional concerns and recommend the best treatment for you.

What’s the Difference Between Varicose and Spider Veins?

Varicose Veins vs. Spider Veins

“Although varicose and spider veins are both signs of underlying vein disease, they vary in size, appearance, symptoms, and severity,” explains Dr. Yan Katsnelson. Below, we describe the main differences between these two related venous conditions.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted, unsightly blood vessels that commonly develop in the lower extremities. They are typically blue in color and raised above the skin’s surface. An estimated 40 million individuals in the US are affected by varicose veins.

Although some believe these malfunctioning veins are just a cosmetic issue, in reality they can cause a range of painful and uncomfortable symptoms. We recommend contacting your doctor or a vein specialist if you experience:

  • Heavy legs
  • Swelling
  • Cramping
  • Itching and burning
  • Pain relief when legs are elevated

Many don’t realize that varicose veins are just one sign of a progressive disease. Your symptoms, which may appear initially as mild, are likely to get worse over time. Venous issues like pain and swelling can eventually affect your mobility and quality of life.

When left untreated, varicose veins can also put you at risk for dangerous and sometimes life-threatening health conditions. These include the development of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and venous ulcers.

Fortunately, you have access to a range of varicose vein treatment options that can eliminate your painful symptoms and reduce risks for complications.

Spider Veins

Spider veins are tiny capillaries usually less than 1mm in diameter (the size of a pencil tip) that can appear as blue, red, or purple, just beneath the surface of your skin. They often develop on the lower extremities, and tend to form in web-like patterns. You may also notice them on your face or other areas of the body.

The presence of spider veins may not be accompanied by any symptoms, but in some cases they may cause:

  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Leg restlessness, especially at night
  • Sensation of tingling, numbness, burning, or itching
  • Tenderness or redness surrounding impacted veins

Although sometimes viewed as harmless, these tiny veins are signs of underlying vein disease and may require spider vein treatment.


What Causes Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?

Varicose and spider veins are both signs of underlying vein disease, or venous insufficiency. This common health condition occurs when tiny vein valves are placed under strain and eventually become damaged. Most often, venous issues develop in the lower extremities –– the legs, ankles, and feet. But damage can occur in other areas of the body.

“When your vein valves are unable to efficiently pump blood back to your heart, blood can instead begin to pool. This can lead to the formation of varicose and spider veins,” shares Yan Katsnelson, M.D.

You may also be wondering what causes vein disease to develop in the first place. There are a number of risk factors involved, including:

  • Genetics: If you have a close relative with varicose veins, you are more likely to get them.
  • Aging: Although anyone can develop varicose or spider veins, they are more common as we grow older.
  • Sex: Women are more likely than men to develop vein disease.
  • Pregnancy: Due to changing hormones and increased blood flow, pregnant women often suffer from varicose veins.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI): Individuals who are obese or overweight are more susceptible to venous issues.
  • Activity level: Inactivity can lead to poor blood circulation and the development of venous insufficiency.
  • Other underlying health conditions: Uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes can impact your vein health.
  • Time spent standing or sitting: If you have a job that requires prolonged standing or sitting, you are considered at increased risk for varicose and spider veins.

If you are concerned about your risks for developing vein disease, it is important to talk to a vein specialist. USA Vein Clinics offers a network of world-class specialists who can offer personalized recommendations aimed to improve your vein health.

How Can I Improve My Varicose and Spider Veins?

If you are suffering from symptoms of varicose and spider veins, we want to assure you that relief is available. Although you can’t control your genetics, there are some recommended lifestyle changes that you may want to try.

We generally recommend:

  • Participate in physical activity: To ensure proper blood circulation, be sure that you are exercising regularly. If you have a job that requires long periods of sitting or standing, try to take frequent breaks to move around.
  • Lose weight: Being overweight can place undue strain on your veins. To reduce symptoms and avoid additional issues, maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). If you need support, ask your doctor about commercial and medical weight loss programs.
  • Manage other health conditions: If you have additional health problems like high blood pressure or diabetes, work with your doctor to control these. Your vein health can be affected by these potentially dangerous conditions.
  • Wear compression socks: Discuss the benefits of wearing compression garments with your doctor. Often, they can help control vein pain and discomfort.
  • Consult a vein specialist: Sometimes, lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough. If you have varicose or spider veins, it is a good idea to visit an expert in the field. You may be pleased by how easy and convenient vein treatment can be.

Vein Treatment at USA Vein Clinics

Now that you understand the ins and outs of varicose veins vs. spider veins, you may want to explore your treatment options. Whether you are interested in vein treatment because of health concerns or cosmetic reasons, our vein specialists can help.

At USA Vein Clinics, we offer a range of minimally-invasive, office-based treatments. To get started, we meet one-on-one with you to discuss the best course of treatment for your situation. Afterward, we make a recommendation for one (or more) of our state-of-the-art treatments, which include:

Our vein treatments can be done over your lunch hour, as the procedure only takes 15 to 30 minutes. Afterward, you can return to most normal activities. Some veins require multiple treatments to resolve symptoms.

We offer clinics in 90 locations nationwide, along with convenient telemedicine options. When you are ready, you can call 888.768.3467 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to meeting you and helping you take back control of your life!



Dr. Yan Katsnelson is a philanthropist, business owner, and highly skilled cardiac surgeon. He is the Founder and CEO of USA Vein Clinics, which is part of USA Clinics Group, the parent company of USA Fibroid Centers, USA Vascular Centers, and USA Oncology Centers with more than 90 facilities nationwide. Dr. Yan has established himself as a strong advocate for accessibility and affordability of the most advanced medical care close to home, and his mission is to create a positive experience for each patient with compassionate, personalized, and expert care.

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