Spider and Varicose Veins: What’s the Difference?

Are you embarrassed by unappealing leg veins? So are millions of women. We hear the terms spider and varicose veins used over and over, but what are they and why are they appearing? 

The difference between varicose veins and spider veins is really in the size and color. Both spider veins and varicose veins are enlarged veins resulting from genetics, pregnancy and/or hormonal changes. Spider veins are small (less than 1 millimeter in diameter) and crop up as flat, red or purple veins, whereas varicose veins are large (3 to10 millimeters in diameter) and tend to bulge. “Varicose veins are larger than spider veins because they result from an elevated venous pressure known as venous insufficiency, which produces the dilatation of the vein walls and failure of the vein valves, says Hunt Valley, MD, dermatologist Karen Beasley, MD.

Present in about 84 percent of adults, spider veins, usually red or purple in color, can appear anywhere on the leg but are commonly located on the inner and lateral thighs and around the ankles, according to Dr. Beasley. Larger varicose veins can also appear anywhere on the leg. “They are commonly associated with pain, swelling and aching,” Dr. Beasley adds.

There are no proven ways of preventing spider and varicose veins, although wearing compression garments (especially during pregnancy and if you stand on your feet all day) can help assist blood flow and reduce pressure and swelling. Sclerotherapy with an injectable solution like Asclera or laser treatments are sometimes options to help reduce the appearance of unsightly veins. 

Have you tried any vein treatments? Tell us your experience.

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5 Comments
  • KittMarie
    Posted on

    Years ago I had the injections done on my legs and they worked Great! It's been 10 years and I am ready to go have it done again. I like this idea more than having the laser done.

  • Deb W
    Posted on

    I had veins that were bothering me. I went to a vein doctor in my area, and his advice was to have foam sclerotherapy. I am very glad I did this. My legs are cleared up and not painful. I did not want to end up with leg pain and big ugly veins like my mother. My advice would be get veins checked early!! There is a lot you can do early on to treat them and not end up real bad off.

  • Rachel
    Posted on

    I was a medical transcriptionist for 8 years which is when I developed my varicose veins. Sitting for many hours at a time was obviously not good for my legs and stopped the blood flow. My varicose veins became worse and it started to become difficult to walk without being in pain from my swollen veins. I did some research and found www.usaveinclinics.com there they do a laser vein procedure. I decided I would try it out and went in for the procedure. The procedure only took about 15 minutes and was painless. My varicose veins are now gone thanks to everyone at the usa vein clinic.

  • Maryclaire
    Posted on

    I had a little area that showed a vein on the inside of my leg above the left knee. It did not bother me but I found it ugly. Long story short--- the vein is still there along with many dark spider veins .............it looks worse and the pain is horrible. I never had any problems until now. I got the procedure over a year ago.

  • phc
    Posted on

    I am almost done with my vein treatments that I started earlier this summer. My varicose veins had gotten to the point, where I was in pain almost every evening. My doctor had suggested to go to a vein clinic, and I am glad I took that step. It is a time consuming process, because I needed laser treatment and injections. I am on my feet all day and I have seen a big improvement already. So glad I made the decision to finally do something about my enlarged veins, for me it wasn't about looks. I needed to do it for my well being.

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