Is There a Difference between Spider and Varicose Veins?

shutterstock_198050576Do you or someone you know have unsightly twisted veins that can be seen through the skin on the legs, feet and/or hands? If so, this person has spider or varicose veins, or a combination of both. These vein conditions are quite common. In fact, approximately 55% of women and 45% of men in the U.S. have a vein problem, with varicose veins affecting 50% of those aged 50 years and older (womenshealth.gov).

Despite their frequency, many Americans do not fully understand the difference between spider and varicose veins. Some even use the two terms interchangeably. Though these vein problems can have similar symptoms, they are entirely different.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted, swollen veins that can be seen through the skin. They are blue or purple in color and commonly appear on thighs, inside of the leg, back of the calves, or feet. During pregnancy, they can also appear around the vagina and buttocks.

Varicose veins are caused by weak or damaged valves within a blood vessel. When the valves are not functioning properly, they can cause blood returning to the heart to flow backwards into the vein. As blood pools in the vein, they can become enlarged, resulting in varicose veins. While many people view varicose veins as an independent disease, they are actually a symptom of venous insufficiency— the inability of the veins to adequately circulate blood.

For many people with varicose veins, they are more than a cosmetic nuisance. Varicose veins can cause pain and discomfort, including aching, swelling, heaviness or tiredness of the legs, itching and even bleeding. If left untreated, they can lead to more severe problems, such skin ulcers and superficial blood clots.

Spider Veins

Spider veins are the younger brother of varicose veins. They are smaller, twisted veins that can be seen closer to the skin's surface than varicose veins. Spider veins can be red, blue or purple in color and look like spider webs or tree branches.

Like varicose veins, they are not an independent disease, but rather a symptom of venous hypertension— high blood pressure in the veins. Venous hypertension can occur as a result of venous insufficiency or an obstruction in the veins due to obesity, prior blood clotting or the compression of abnormal veins.

While spider veins can cause pain, it's less common than with varicose veins, though they can still cause some discomfort. Their unsightly appearance is a main reason why people choose to seek treatment to get their spider veins removed.

shutterstock_222825124Risk Factors

While spider and varicose veins are different, they have many of the same risk factors. Your risk for developing these vein problems increases with age, which is why so many older Americans have them. People born with weak vessel valves and who have family members with vein problems have a greater chance of developing them. It's estimated that 50% of patients with varicose or spider veins have a family member who also has them. Other factors, including obesity, prolonged sitting or standing, pregnancy, hormonal changes and sun exposure, can increase your risk.

What Can You Do?

If you suffer from varicose or spider veins, contact Dr. Khitin at the New York Vein Treatment Center. Dr. Khitin is a certified vein specialist in NYC who specializes in vein complications of the lower extremities. In the spirit of the holidays, the New York Vein Treatment Center is offering complimentary consultations and a Sclerotherapy package special. Contact the vein clinic to set up your free consultation: (212) 575-8346.

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