November 12


Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins and Their Treatments

By Dr. Edward Mackay

November 12, 2017

Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins and Their Treatments

Vein and circulation issues are extremely common among people of all ages. While there is no surefire consensus over why these vein issues have become so commonplace, sedentary lifestyles and work environments may be contributing factors.

There are two types of vein issues that often become confused or equated with one another, and those are spider veins and varicose veins. Although similar in some ways, these are two distinct conditions each requiring their own management techniques and treatments.

Get to know more about the similarities and the differences between these two vein conditions as well as the ways they can be treated so you can schedule an appointment with a vein and circulation specialist as soon as possible.

Spider Veins and Varicose Veins Have Similar Causes

One of the facts that make people think varicose veins and spider veins are the same condition is that they have similar causes and origins. Both of these conditions can be brought on by a combination of different factors including genetics (i.e., if a family member has them, you may be more likely), pregnancy, aging, and a sedentary lifestyle, among other factors.

While this means that the conditions are similar, it does not mean they are the same. A person with spider veins may never develop varicose veins and vice versa. Spider Veins Are Smaller Than Varicose Veins

The primary difference between these two conditions is the size of the veins affected. Spider veins are quite small in nature and often appear as thin bluish lines on the surface of the skin. On the other hand, varicose veins are often quite larger and become much more swollen.

Spider Veins Are Cosmetic and Varicose Veins Are Medical

In general, spider veins are largely a cosmetic concern rather than a medical one. In other words, spider veins do not cause any medical problems such as blocked veins or arteries or blood flow issues. They are superficial, meaning close to the surface of the skin.

Occasionally, spider veins may be so close to the surface of the skin that they bleed when bumped or rubbed against something hard, but this is rare and the bleeding is minimal.

Varicose veins, on the other hand, can be more medical in nature. What this means is they cause symptoms beyond cosmetic issues (while they do cause those as well). The most common complaint about varicose veins is pain. Because these are large veins with pooling blood, they can become quite painful and irritated.

The larger the bundles of veins affected and blocked, the worse varicose veins can feel. These veins can also cause problems with overall circulation, bleeding, blood clots, and can sometimes even cause ulcers.

Spider Veins and Varicose Veins Often Require Different Treatments

The two most common treatments for spider veins are sclerotherapy and laser therapy. Laser therapy uses concentrated light energy (heat) to close off the ends of the spider vein. The spider vein will then disintegrate and disappear.


Sclerotherapy is another technique to close off and remove spider veins. This treatment requires a tiny catheter to be inserted into the vein so the doctor can run a chemical solution into the spider vein. The solution damages the structure of the vein, cutting off the spider vein and allowing it to dissolve and disappear.

When it comes to varicose veins, sclerotherapy is an option but laser therapy is rarely used. This is because laser therapy is largely for surface-level issues and too much laser energy could severely damage surrounding tissues.

Smaller varicose veins are often dealt with through sclerotherapy while the larger, more problematic bundles are treated surgically. The surgical technique used is known as an ambulatory phlebectomy and involves small incisions to remove the large bundles.

Sometimes the veins leading to the bundles are left closed off, and other times, the blood flow is rerouted by connecting to other, healthy veins.

Now that you know more about the differences between spider veins and varicose veins and how they are treated, you can be sure to schedule your appointmentfor treatment as soon as possible.

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