The blue squiggly lines may look similar, but looks can be deceiving – varicose veins and spider veins are NOT the same thing. They are two separate conditions. Spider veins cannot turn into varicose veins, and varicose veins cannot form spider veins. It is important to know the difference, because varicose veins can be a sign of serious medical issues, while spider veins, for the most part, are just a cosmetic issue.
Although different conditions, varicose and spider veins both form from weakened or damaged valves in the veins; they both can also appear in similar parts of the body such as the legs. Again, although they are different, they also share some commonalities when it comes to causes, including age, genetics, pregnancy, people who stand or sit for an extended period, and being overweight.
In terms of appearance, spider veins are tiny, thin, flat, blueish/purplish/reddish veins that branch out like a spider web. Spider veins can form anywhere on the body, but are mostly found on the face, legs, and abdomen. Varicose veins are large, bulging, blueish/purplish/reddish veins, and can be found anywhere in the body, as well, but mostly they appear in the legs.
For the most part, spider veins are pain free. The most common complaint with spider veins is their unsightliness, whereas varicose veins can produce a number of painful symptoms, including throbbing, itching, tired and heavy legs, cramps, swelling, and restless legs.
Since spider veins are mainly a cosmetic issue, they will cause a person no harm. Very rarely, spider veins can be a sign of an underlying disorder, like Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that causes blood vessels in the skin to bleed excessively. Over time, varicose veins will develop and/or lead to more pain, swelling, skin changes, ulcers, blood clots, and even potentially a pulmonary embolism.
People usually seek treatment for both spider veins and varicose veins due to cosmetic concerns; however, people also look for treatment for their varicose veins due to painful symptoms and complications that they are experiencing.
For treatment, both varicose and spider veins can be helped by wearing compression clothing/stockings. This treatment helps alleviate symptoms of venous diseases and improve overall comfort. Sclerotherapy is treatment that can also help both conditions. With this treatment, a chemical solution is injected via a fine needle into the veins. The solution causes the walls of the vein to become irritated, shrink and close off.
The following treatments and minimally-invasive procedures are solely for varicose veins: endovenous ablation, microphlebectomy, VenaSeal and ClosureFast.
If you’re seeking treatment for spider veins or varicose veins, Dr. Peter Mikhail is a vein specialist based in New Port Richey, Florida, and treats patients in the Tampa and Clearwater area. He will examine your veins to come up with the best plan to eliminate your painful and/or unsightly veins. To book a consult, click here or call 727-312-4844.