This guide helps define the differences when comparing spider veins vs varicose veins. Both spider veins and varicose veins are abnormal veins that most commonly appear on people’s legs. On average, 50 percent of women and around 45 percent of men in the United States have either spider veins, varicose veins or both. These two types of venous disease are especially common in people over the age of 50. (this post was updated April 4, 2018)
MVC Video – 5 Things to know about Spider Veins vs Varicose Veins
Spider Veins description
Spider veins are smaller than varicose veins and closer to the surface of the skin. They are usually red, blue or purple in color and look like threads or tree branches. Spider veins are usually seen on the legs, but are also common on the face and may appear on any part of the body.
Spider veins are not as large as varicose veins, and they are closer to the skin’s surface. They have short jagged lines that remind people of tree branches or spider webs. They are usually blue or red and are most common on the legs or face. Spider veins can be caused by injuries, hormonal changes, the backup of blood, or exposure to the sun.
Are spider veins a problem?
Usually, spider veins are a problem only in the cosmetic sense, especially if they’re on the patient’s face and cover a large area. They can sometimes cause itching or burning sensations. Occasionally, they will cause the same symptoms seen in varicose veins. When this happens, it means the spider veins are caused by a damaged or weak valve in a vein like a varicose vein. In this case, the spider veins should be treated as varicose veins.
VIDEO – About Spider Veins
Varicose Veins description
Varicose veins are usually in the legs and are caused by the pooling of blood in the vein because it is not properly pumped to the heart. These veins are seen below the skin as bulging, swollen and twisted veins.
Varicose veins are distended veins that have a cord-like appearance. They can be red, blue or flesh-toned and are often raised above the surface of the skin. They are often enlarged, swollen and twisted. Varicose veins are most commonly found on the inside of the leg, the back of the calf, or the thigh. They can also form around the buttocks or vagina during pregnancy.
Varicose veins are caused by damaged or weak valves in the veins. Veins in the legs are supposed to carry blood from the legs back to the heart, and the valves are supposed to keep the blood from flowing backward to the feet. A defective valve will, instead, let the blood leak and collect in the veins. If enough blood collects in the veins, they swell and become varicose.
The most common signs that varicose veins may be developing are:
- Aching in the legs that becomes worse after sitting or standing for long periods
- Cramping and throbbing in the legs
- A feeling of heaviness in the legs
- Swelling around the ankle
- An irritating and itchy rash on the lower legs
- A darkening of the skin in severe cases
- Restless leg syndrome
Are varicose veins a problem?
Symptoms associated with varicose veins include rashes, cramps, restless legs, and pain. They are also associated with serious health problems like painful sores caused by prolonged backing up of blood. The skin over the veins can become thin and prone to bleeding. The most serious consequence of all is a blood clot. Symptoms of a blood clot include red skin, a warm and tender vein, and pain.
A patient with varicose veins should contact the Miami Vein Center if they have a rash or sores, their skin changes color and becomes thicker, the veins become swollen, red, warm, or tender, or if they are in pain. They should also call the doctor if the varicose veins are interfering with their daily activities.
The Causes – Spider Veins vs Varicose Veins
The most common cause of varicose veins is heredity. Spider veins can be caused by exposure to the sun, an injury and the backup of blood because of venous insufficiency.
Other causes include:
- Aging – the valves in the veins will naturally weaken with age.
- Changes in hormone levels – during pregnancy, menopause, and puberty, as well as when birth control pills are taken or during hormone replacement therapy (HRT), there is a higher risk of varicose and spider veins forming.
- Being overweight – this can put pressure on the leg veins and slow the movement of blood. This pressure may cause the valves in the veins to weaken.
- Lack of exercise – exercise causes the muscles to move, which helps circulation by pushing the blood in the leg veins.
- Standing or sitting too long – a job that requires hours of standing can force the veins to work harder, which will weaken them over time. Sitting for long periods can greatly reduce circulation in the legs.
- Direct sunlight – for fair-skinned people, exposure to direct sunlight for long periods can cause spider veins on their cheeks and nose.
Learn more about Spider Veins and Varicose Veins at MVC
If you feel that you may be developing venous insufficiency, you can learn about your options at the Miami Vein Center in Miami. There are several treatments that can treat vein disease and help your legs look smooth and clear again.