Varicose v. Spider Veins: What's the Difference?

Varicose veins and spider veins are terms that are often used interchangeably, but each condition is actually quite different from the other. Though it’s true that both vascular disorders share many similarities, including some forms of treatment and prevention, they differ drastically in appearance, formation, and treatment options.

While both varicose veins and spider veins are usually found on the legs and are often both present in a single patient, the actual appearance for each is very different.
  • Varicose veins appear large, bulky and ropelike. Since they are swollen from pooling blood they are also raised and bulging above skin level.
  • Spider veins however, are smaller, flatter and web-like, appearing in reddish blue clusters just underneath the skin’s surface.

Although most vascular disorders are traced back to a poorly functioning circulatory system, the specific way that each condition forms varies.

  • Varicose veins develop as a result of inactive or improperly functioning valves in the veins. When valves fail to move blood along properly it begins to pool, causing the vein to expand to accommodate the excess blood flow.
  • Spider veins can sometimes form as a direct result of varicose veins, which is why the two are often seen on patients in pairs. They are a repercussion of increased vein pressure from excess blood flow, pregnancy, smoking, and inactivity.
  • The main difference between the two is that spider veins affect superficial veins, which explains why their appearance is more slight than that of varicose veins.

Luckily, there are many different treatment options available for vascular conditions, but some work better for one disorder over another.

  • For acute cases of varicose veins sclerotherapy may be appropriate, but more aggressive procedures are usually needed to fully correct the condition. More severe cases may call for an ambulatory phlebectomy, endovenous laser procedures, radiofrequency treatments or our exclusive easy ASVAL method which uses acupuncture.
  • Spider veins on the other hand are much easier to treat and can usually be eliminated with laser or sclerotherapy treatments.
  • In addition, did you know that spider veins are considered a cosmetic issue, while varicose veins fall under the umbrella of a health-related issue and are therefore covered under insurance? For all other procedures 100% financing is available.

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