What’s the Difference Between Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?

There’s no doubt that spider veins and varicose veins have a big impact on your appearance. Most people who contact Central Coast Vein & Vascular for treatment simply want to eliminate the unsightly veins and love their legs again.

But there are differences between varicose veins and spider veins (beyond their appearance). In fact, one of these vein diseases can lead to serious health complications.

Whether your doctor has already told you that you have one of these conditions, or if you just suspect that you do, you likely have some questions. Keep reading for answers to some of the most common questions.

Varicose veins and spider veins share the same cause

Varicose veins, and the smaller version known as spider veins, are both abnormal, dilated blood vessels that often form in the legs. They develop when the valves and walls of the veins are weak, which causes blood to pool in the veins. This pooling increases the pressure in the veins, and they become enlarged, resulting in  visible varicose veins or spider veins.

Varicose and spider veins are very common. About 50 to 55 percent of women and 40 to 45 percent of men in the United States suffer from some type of vein problem. Varicose veins affect half of people 50 years and older.

Many factors can raise your risk for developing varicose and spider veins, including family history, older age, female gender, pregnancy, obesity, prolonged standing or sitting, blood clots, and prior trauma.

While someone can have both varicose veins and spider veins, it’s important to clarify a common myth: spider veins do not always turn into varicose veins.

Varicose and spider veins - The main differences

Spider veins appear as tiny red or blue lines, usually less than 1 mm in diameter, that look like branches or a spider web just below the surface of your skin. You can develop spider veins anywhere on your body, but are most common on your legs and face. They are generally harmless.

Varicose veins are twisted, bulging blue blood vessels that can be seen and felt right under the surface of the skin most typically on the legs, ankles and feet. Over time, varicose veins can worsen and cause changes in the skin and other health complications.

Symptoms and complications

Spider veins are mostly a cosmetic problem. They’re almost always painless and generally do not lead to other health problems.

By comparison, varicose veins are not always just a cosmetic problem – they can impact how you enjoy life and can potentially lead to serious health problems. They frequently cause a variety of symptoms in the lower extremeties including pain, swelling, tingling, and heaviness.

Though spider veins almost rarely pose a health threat, the same cannot be said for varicose veins. If left untreated, serious complications can occur such as spontaneous bleeding, skin rashes, thick and discolored skin, non-healing sores and blood clots.

Minimally-invasive treatments let you return to daily activities almost Iimmediately 

We often use Sclerotherapy to treat smaller veins such as spider veins. Sclerotherapy is a simple injection through a tiny needle of a chemical irritant into a vein to close the vessel. 

For varicose veins, Endovenous laser ablation treatment (EVLT) is commonly used. It is a minimally invasive treatment that uses heat to close off problematic veins and relieve the symptoms they cause. Using imaging guidance (guided by X-ray images), Dr Spearman threads a thin laser fiber into the problem vein through a tiny needle. Once the problem vein is closed, blood will flow through the remaining healthy veins. 

Other minimally invasive treatments offered at CCVV include VenaSeal®,  radiofrequency ablation and VeinGogh.

If you are experiencing symptoms of spider or varicose veins, call Central Coast Vein & Vascular, or book an appointment online to learn more about the best options for treatment and if minimally invasive procedures are right for you. 

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