Varicose Veins or Spider Veins – How to Tell the Difference

Varicose Veins or Spider Veins – How to Tell the Difference

Venous conditions are relatively common, especially as we age. While some vein issues are more cosmetic without causing bothersome symptoms, other vein conditions are more severe and require medical treatment. Either way, it’s essential to have a physician diagnose the vein condition properly. 

Two of the most common vein disorders include varicose veins and spider veins. Both of these are more common among women, and those with a family history of vein conditions have an increased risk. Age also plays into this. The risk of varicose veins is higher in pregnancy, hormonal pills use, and in people who stand for a longer time. Your doctor can quickly diagnose these conditions by examining the area. A Doppler ultrasound is the most important diagnostic modality for varicose veins and the complications that can arise. Let’s examine the difference between spider veins and varicose veins.


The appearance of varicose veins and spider veins is very different. The most striking difference is the size – varicose veins are much bigger and prominent than spider veins. Varicose veins are twisted-looking. Spider veins, as the name reflects, look like spider webs. They are very thin and make small blue or red lines that are visible through the skin. Their size is mostly less than 1mm. 


Varicose veins are bulging and can be palpated through the skin. On the other hand, spider veins are not palpable. You can often only see them through the skin but not feel them.


Location is another big difference between the two conditions. The most common location for varicose veins is the legs. Spider veins are commonly seen on the face. These veins can be found in some other locations, too, so a proper examination is necessary.


As varicose veins progress, the symptoms can become more painful. Varicose veins can cause heaviness, pain, discomfort, leg swelling, and skin changes; they can also cause venous ulcers and blood clots. Spider veins do not cause pain or any other symptoms. They are just a cosmetic concern in almost all cases.


The most common treatment option adopted for spider veins is sclerotherapy, but this is mostly for cosmetic purposes. Laser treatment is also very popular these days. For varicose veins, there is a range of treatments. The treatment starts with lifestyle modifications like not standing for a long time and losing weight. Your doctor can advise compression stockings as well. Sclerotherapy, laser treatment, endovenous laser therapy (EVLT), and surgery are other treatment modalities for varicose veins, depending on severity.

If you have veins you are concerned about, be sure to speak with your doctor.

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