Spider Veins Vs. Varicose Veins

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Spider veins and varicose veins may seem similar at first glance but the two types of vein disease are actually different. Each condition affects blood vessels, of course, but the two problems affect different areas of the body and respond to different types of vein treatment.

Both varicose veins and spider veins are signs of vein disease. In these two conditions, poor blood circulation causes the blood vessels to swell, twist and become more visible at the surface of the skin. Each vein disease responds well to treatment.

Varicose veins are large, swollen, and raised blood vessels that usually appear on a person’s lower legs, often at the backs of their thighs, knees or calves. These veins can be 3 mm or larger, and appear as red, purple or blue rope-like veins. In addition to ruining the smooth appearance of skin, varicose veins can cause heaviness, aching, swelling, itching, throbbing, night cramps, leg fatigue, and restless legs. Left untreated, poor blood circulation associated with varicose veins may sometimes lead to painful sores near the ankles, known as venous ulcers.

Spider veins, as their name implies, are veins that branch out like a spider web. They are usually quite tiny and delicate. Spider veins are typically a cosmetic problem, although spider veins lying close to the surface of the skin may bleed or bruise if bumped or scrubbed too hard.

Differences in Treatment of Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

Vein treatment for varicose veins and spider veins involve irritating the diseased vein in ways that cause the vein to swell and close. The treated vein eventually breaks apart and fades into nearby tissue. Vein doctors now perform these treatments in outpatient clinics.

Types of Varicose Vein and Spider Vein Treatments

Compression stockings

Compression stockings help alleviate both minor spider veins and minor varicose veins and are an important part of other types of vein treatment.

Ambulatory Phlebectomy

Ambulatory phlebectomy is a procedure in which a vein surgeon removes varicose veins through tiny slits in the skin.


Sclerotherapy is a vein treatment that involves the injection of chemicals to irritate and close the diseased blood vessel. Vein doctors use sclerotherapy to treat spider veins.

Laser treatment

Laser treatment is appropriate for both varicose veins and spider veins. There are two main types of laser treatments for vein disease: endovenous laser treatment and transdermal laser treatment. Both work by using laser light energy to irritate the diseased vein. Endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) effectively treats larger varicose veins, which typically develop in the lower legs. Transdermal laser treatment is for spider veins and smaller varicose veins.

For more information about the differences between spider veins and varicose veins, contact your local vein doctor. Vein surgeons can also help you explore different treatments for vein disease, including laser treatment.