The Differences Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

Spider veins and varicose veins combined affect about 80% of men and 85% of women in the United States, which means these vascular conditions are incredibly common. While spider veins and varicose veins are often lumped together, there are key differences between the two, as well as many similarities.

To help you better understand the differences between varicose veins and spider veins, board-certified vascular surgeon Dr. Michael Kassouf and our team at VeinMedic in New York City pulled together the following rules of thumb when it comes to these vascular issues.

Spider veins at a glance

Spider veins, as their name implies, are small, spindly veins that you can see across the surface of your skin, usually in your legs or on your face. These types of veins are also referred to as reticular veins or spider telangiectasias, and they generally don’t pose any serious medical threat.

When spider veins develop in your legs, it’s largely due to venous insufficiency (more on that in a minute). When spider veins form on your face, it’s generally due to exposure, which draws the veins toward the surface of your skin, causing them to burst. This may sound serious, but the blood vessels in question are quite small, and your blood quickly reroutes itself through healthier vessels.

Varicose veins at a glance

Varicose veins are far more obvious as they can bulge, creating a lumpy appearance across the surface of your skin. In most cases, varicose veins form in your legs. Women are twice as likely to develop this vascular issue than men. To put some numbers to the problem, varicose veins affect 22 million women and 11 million men between the ages of 40 and 80 years in the US.

In many cases, even these larger veins aren’t medically serious and pose no real threat. Of the 33 million men and women with varicose veins, however, 2 million have complications, including venous ulceration.

Behind problematic leg veins

The cause of spider veins and varicose veins in the legs is the same: venous insufficiency. The veins in your legs are equipped with tiny valves that keep your blood from flowing backward. These valves work harder than others in your body as they have to fight both gravity and distance to get the blood back to your heart.

If these valves weaken, blood can begin to pool, which is what engorges your veins and pushes them toward the surface of your skin, creating varicose and spider veins.

Treating varicose and spider veins

The good news is that we offer several treatments for ridding your legs of both spider veins and varicose veins, including:

Sclerotherapy is a great technique for both spider veins and varicose veins, while we reserve endovenous ablation for problematic varicose veins alone. Laser treatments are a quick, easy way to break up spider veins. We can use the innovative technology for many varicose veins, as well.

To determine which treatment is right for your spider veins or varicose veins, please contact one of our New York offices in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge, Manhattan's Washington Heights, Elmhurst in Queens, and Mount Hope in the Bronx.

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