Are varicose veins and spider veins the same?

Michelle Kosovec, MD
Vascular Surgery
Varicose veins and spider veins are different. Spider veins are typically much smaller than varicose veins. They do look sort of spidery and are usually treated for cosmetic reasons. However, they can sometimes cause a burning feeling.

Varicose veins are a lot bigger. They may bulge over time. Varicose veins can lead to more dramatic symptoms with leg aching and swelling. The skin over the vein may itch or develop a wound.

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Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine
Technically, spider and varicose veins are slightly different. Varicose veins are enlarged veins that often look like bulging or twisted cords on your leg. Spider veins are smaller and look more like branching veins, and can be found on the legs or face. 
All of the veins in our body have one-way valves. They helps push the blood back to your heart from your legs, especially when the blood is going against gravity, like when you’re standing. Over time -- often due to pregnancy, obesity or spending lots of time on our feet -- those valves can get weaker and give out, causing blood to not flow back as efficiently. The blood pools in the superficial veins in your legs, causing what we call varicose veins. 
Usually, both these types of veins are merely a cosmetic issue. But in some people, they can be painful as well. Or even lead to ulcers. In some rare cases, they could signal a dangerous blood clot deeper in the leg that’s called a DVT or deep-vein thrombosis. Those are dangerous because they could potentially harm the blood flow in your leg, or cause a piece of clot to break off and go into your lungs. If you’ve developed pain, ulcers or any swelling of your leg, you should see your doctor to make sure that it doesn’t represent a DVT. 
If your doctor rules out a DVT, there are some options for treatment. Those typically start out with lifestyle changes: exercise, weight loss, elevating your legs and not standing or sitting for prolonged periods. Compression stockings can also be useful and are usually available without a prescription at the pharmacy or medical supply store.
If those things don’t help, you can talk with your doctor about other treatments, including injections, laser treatments or other surgeries to remove the varicose veins.

Varicose veins and spider veins are not the same thing. Varicose veins are larger and typically occur on the legs and feet. Spider veins are enlarged capillaries that tend to look like spider webs. They can be found anywhere, but are most common on the legs and face.

Joseph Ajaka

No, Varicose Veins and Spider Veins are not the same thing. Both varicose veins and spider veins are insufficiencies of the venous system, that is, inability of the veins to push blood back up to the heart. One is generally quite small and appears reddish blue in color, and the other is often quite raised and protruding

Varicose veins are a larger, more serious problem from venous insufficiencies. Normally, veins in the leg return blood to the heart by the pumping action of the muscles when a person walks. One-way valves prevent reflux of blood back into the legs. Veins become less elastic and the valves can begin to malfunction. When this happens, the veins can take on a ropey appearance that can be unsightly and cause pain and discomfort. Standing and walking may become uncomfortable. This can even progress to leg ulcers and blood clots.

Spider veins, on the other hand are small, dilated, thread-like superficial veins on the legs. They are generally red or blue in appearance. Spider veins are really only a cosmetic problem, as they don't provide much of a problem to the health and well being of an individual.

Continue Learning about Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

Large twisted blue or purplish veins visible at the skins surface are known as varicose veins. Any vein in your body can become varicose but it usually occurs in the legs and feet due to the pressure the lower body endures to keep ...

your body upright. It is caused by the weakening of the valves and veins in your legs. Varicose veins are usually hereditary. We are also more prone to get varicose veins as we age. Symptoms include itching, burning, throbbing or cramping in the legs and around the veins. Self-care measures such as exercising, elevating your legs, and wearing compression stockings are used to ease the pain and prevent varicose veins from getting worse. If these measures dont work, see your doctor to discuss medical treatments that are available to close or remove varicose veins.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.