Spider Veins vs Varicose Veins

Spider and varicose veins

Have you ever looked down to discover a frustrating maze of veins scattered across your legs? Rest assured, you’re not alone. Over time, it’s common for legs to start resembling complex road maps, a phenomenon primarily attributed to the development of spider and varicose veins. But how can you discern the root cause and determine whether you’re dealing with varicose or spider veins? Let’s explain the differences and similarities between these two conditions.

The Difference Between Varicose Veins & Spider Veins


Spider veins have a web-like appearance that pops up on the surface of your skin. They are small, twisted blood vessels that can be red, purple, or blue and may cause aching, burning, itching, or minor leg swelling. Varicose veins are deeper and larger than spider veins because they supply blood to muscle tissue. When they become visible, they tend to bulge out more than spider veins. 


As you age, the valves within your veins weaken, impeding the smooth flow of blood in its intended direction: toward the heart. When these valves weaken, they sometimes fail to prevent backward flow, leading to the accumulation of blood in the veins and venous insufficiency. This causes increased pressure within the veins, ultimately causing them to enlarge and become more visible, manifesting into spider veins or varicose veins. 


Many causes of varicose veins also contribute to the development of spider veins:


  • Genetic Predisposition: A family history of varicose or spider veins increases your likelihood of getting them.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, like those that occur during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, can contribute to the development of both conditions.
  • Prolonged Standing or Sitting: This can lead to increased vein pressure, impairing circulation and causing varicose and spider veins.
  • Leg trauma: Such injuries can damage vein valves or the veins themselves, disrupting blood flow and causing blood to pool. This increased pressure can impair vein function, leading to either condition. 
  • Skin Damage: Damaged or thin skin weakens vein support and circulation, increasing visibility and pressure susceptibility, leading to varicose and spider veins from blood pooling and vein enlargement.
  • Obesity: Being overweight is a common risk factor for varicose and spider veins as it increases pressure on veins, causing enlargement and dysfunction.
  • Smoking: This damages veins by introducing toxins that weaken their walls and valves, impairing blood flow and oxygen levels, which increases pressure and can lead to either condition.


Although they stem from similar causes, varicose veins are linked to more severe cases of venous insufficiency than spider veins, which are generally more cosmetic than harmful. Varicose veins can stem from a combination of the factors mentioned above and typically affect larger and deeper veins, resulting in symptoms such as leg swelling, discomfort, and aching. They may also carry a higher risk of complications such as blood clots or skin changes. 

What Are the Best Treatments for Spider Veins vs Varicose Veins?


Because varicose veins are usually an indication of more pronounced venous insufficiency issues, they require different treatments than spider veins. With varicose veins, the focus is on fixing the underlying vein issue to ease symptoms and prevent problems. On the flip side, treatments for spider veins mainly focus on eliminating visible veins, without necessarily addressing underlying vein function issues. Whether you’re dealing with spider or varicose veins, here are some of the treatments you may want to consider.

How to Treat Spider Veins

Spider veins are often treated with sclerotherapy, a treatment that takes 10 to 30 minutes. During this procedure, a solution called sclerosant is injected directly into the vein, irritating its lining and prompting it to collapse. The vein’s lining adheres and it’s gradually absorbed by your body, eventually fading away entirely. You should schedule a follow-up treatment within 4-6 weeks, considering that most individuals typically require 2-3 sessions or more to reach their desired outcome. Nevertheless, the appearance of spider veins will gradually fade over time.


Spider Veins Injections Illustration


MOCA (mechanical obstruction and chemical ablation) presents an alternative approach to treating spider veins. Unlike the sclerosant solution employed in sclerotherapy, MOCA uses a chemical to irritate the vein’s lining, causing it to close and eventually absorb into the body.

How to Treat Varicose Veins

Varicose veins can range from mild to severe, and the choice of treatment often hinges on how severe the condition is. Some treatments aim to target particular symptoms while others tackle underlying issues that contribute to them. You may have specific preferences when it comes to how you want your veins treated and which methods you find most comfortable. Fortunately, there’s a wide array of minimally invasive treatment methods available, each addressing varicose veins in its unique way:

  • Ambulatory Phlebectomy: A procedure used to remove superficial varicose veins. During the treatment, small incisions are made over the affected veins, and the veins are removed using a specialized hook-like instrument.
  • Varithena: Involves injecting a foam solution into the affected veins to improve blood flow and reduce varicose vein symptoms.
  • Venaseal: A treatment that uses a special medical glue to help stop the damaged vein from working. This allows blood to flow more smoothly and helps to relieve your symptoms.
  • Venous Ablation: Uses heat energy to seal the affected vein, redirecting blood flow to healthier veins and improving circulation.

Varicose Vein Heat Injection Illustration

Managing Varicose and Spider Veins with Confidence


While both varicose and spider veins can cause aesthetic worry and discomfort, understanding their differences and treatment options empowers you to manage your vascular health more effectively. Whether indicative of mild or serious issues, prompt attention to these venous inconveniences is advantageous. Luckily with the right treatment approach, you can have veins that look better, feel healthier, and are much less visible. 

At Delaware Advanced Vein Center, our expert medical staff has years of experience treating people with venous conditions such as varicose veins, spider veins, and more. Our dedicated team specializes in providing attentive and personalized care, something larger clinics often overlook. We welcome you to our family of satisfied patients.

Contact us today to schedule a FREE virtual consultation and vein evaluation.