What are varicose veins and spider veins?

Varicose veins are dilated veins that can occur anywhere on the body, but are commonly seen in the legs. Varicose veins often enlarge significantly during pregnancy and with each subsequent pregnancy. Pregnant women may notice varicose veins in the labia and around the buttocks. Varicose veins in men can involve the scrotum and are called varicoceles (see questions pertaining to varicoceles for more info).
Spider veins are the smallest varicose veins that affect the superficial blood vessels just beneath the skin. They are often red or blue. They may be linear, branching, or in a fan-shape. They may be few in number and involve only a small area, or they may be numerous and have a rather extensive coverage area on the skin.

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that can be flesh colored, dark purple or blue. They often look like cords and appear twisted and bulging. They are swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. Varicose veins are commonly found on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the leg. During pregnancy, varicose veins called hemorrhoids can form in the vagina or around the anus.

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they are smaller. They are often red or blue and are closer to the surface of the skin than varicose veins. They can look like tree branches or spider webs with their short jagged lines. Spider veins can be found on the legs and face. They can cover either a very small or very large area of skin.

This answer is based on source information from The National Women's Health Information Center.

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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.