Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins: What’s the Difference?

If you’re concerned about leg veins and doing some research, you may have heard of terms like spider veins or varicose veins. Although they may seem like the same thing, they’re actually two different concerns. Spider veins and varicose veins require different treatment from a vein specialist, so here’s what to know about them and their causes.

Similarities Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

Spider veins and varicose veins share a common cause. The veins in your legs are responsible for pushing blood back toward the heart. Veins keep the blood moving in a single direction using valves that close and prevent blood from pooling or backing up. However, the walls and valves of the veins can weaken over time, allowing blood to pool and collect. When this happens, the veins become dilated and begin to appear on the surface of the skin.

Spider veins and varicose veins are very common and can be caused by prolonged sitting and standing. They can also have a genetic component and are most common in older women. However, having heavier weight because of pregnancy or obesity can also cause spider veins and varicose veins to develop.

Differences Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

There are some key differences between spider veins and varicose veins. Firstly, it’s important to understand that spider veins do not turn into varicose veins – they are two separate concerns. Spider veins are very small (about 1mm in diameter) and look like small spider webs that are flat against the surface of the skin. They’re usually purple, red, or blue in color and can appear on the face as well as the legs. Spider veins are a cosmetic concern and are not harmful to your health – in fact, they can be very easily treated with a variety of cosmetic procedures.

Varicose veins are much larger veins that can protrude from the skin. They may be twisted, bulging, or bluish and can be felt. They tend to appear in areas like the legs, ankles, and feet. Varicose veins can also cause symptoms like itchiness, aching, swelling, and tingling. Varicose veins are a health problem and can lead to even more serious health complications like blood clots or deep vein thrombosis if not treated by a vein specialist.

How Do I Know If I Have Spider Veins or Varicose Veins?

Spider veins and varicose veins are relatively easy to distinguish. Spider veins are very small and don’t produce any raised bumps on the skin. They don’t produce any symptoms – you may just be bothered by their appearance. On the other hand, varicose veins can produce noticeable physical symptoms and can be felt or seen on the surface of the skin. Varicose veins can be large and rope-like and can also cause physical discomfort.

If you’re concerned about veins, it’s always best to consult a vein specialist for a diagnosis and to discuss your vein treatment options. Varicose veins and spider veins have a variety of minimally invasive treatment options that can achieve long-term results.

Schedule an Appointment

At Wisconsin Vein Center & MediSpa, our team of vein specialists led by Dr. Manjoney can help you learn more about your options. We’re the leading provider of vein treatments in the Milwaukee area and greater Midwest. To schedule an appointment, contact our Pewaukee office by calling or filling out our online form.

Owner / On-Site Medical Director at Wisconsin Vein Center & MediSpa | Website

Dr. Deborah Manjoney is a board-certified surgeon and physician with extensive training, including cardiothoracic surgery. She founded the Wisconsin Vein Center & MediSpa in 2002, where she specializes in vein treatments and minimally invasive aesthetic procedures. Dr. Manjoney is nationally recognized, having spoken at conferences, received awards, and contributed to medical publications.