How to Distinguish Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

Painful legs

If you suffer from venous disorder, you may be confused about the terminology used to describe different types of vein issues. You may have heard your condition described as spider veins, varicose veins, or bulging veins, but what do those terms refer to? This guide will help you correctly identify which type of venous disorder you’re suffering from so that you can learn more about treatment options for your specific condition.

Spider Veins

Spider veins are small, superficial veins. Superficial veins become spider veins when blood valves fail and are no longer able to push and pull blood through veins. As a result, blood pools in those veins, and the damaged vein generally becomes visible through the skin as a red, dark blue, or purple color.

Spider veins are small—usually less than 3 millimeters in diameter—and get their name because they look like spider webs or spider legs on the skin. Minor venous disorder may leave sufferers with one or two visible spider veins, but more advanced issues can result in large patches of spider veins covering a significant portion of a specific body part.

Spider veins can appear anywhere on the body, but they are most commonly found on the face and legs. Spider veins generally do not cause health issues; for the most part, they are a cosmetic issue. However, many people are embarrassed by spider veins and seek treatment so that they can feel more comfortable showing off their skin to others.

Varicose Veins

Like spider veins, varicose veins are also caused by failed blood valves that result in blood pooling in veins rather than moving freely through them. However, varicose veins occur when blood valves fail in larger superficial veins—varicose veins are damaged veins that are more than 3 millimeters in diameter.

Varicose veins may or may not display color through the skin, but they do cause skin to bulge. Therefore, varicose veins are also commonly referred to as bulging veins. Like spider veins, varicose veins can appear anywhere on the body, but the legs are the most common place where varicose veins are found.

Unlike spider veins, varicose veins are more than just a cosmetic issue. If left untreated, varicose veins can worsen and cause swelling, pain, ulcers, fatigue, and even external bleeding. For this reason, it is important to have varicose veins evaluated by a phlebologist to determine if treatment is required.

Treatment Options for Spider and Varicose Veins

Both spider veins and varicose veins can be treated by a phlebologist—a doctor that specializes in diagnosing and treating venous disorder. Vein stripping is rarely used as a treatment method these days; it has been replaced with more modern procedures like sclerotherapy, endovenous laser treatment, and Veinwave. These newer procedures are more advanced and may be more likely to get rid of your vein issues.

To get an estimate on potential out of pocket costs for having your spider or varicose veins treated, use our treatment cost calculator.

Published on: 17 November 2016
Posted by: Editorial Team