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February 23, 2010 at 6:59 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Varicose Veins and Spider Veins: What's the Difference?

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

While there are some differences between varicose veins and spider veins, there are also some similarities. Let's discuss some of the obvious differences first:

The appearance:

Varicose veins are enlarged veins. Spider veins are small veins. Varicose veins are dark purple or blue in color. Spider veins are red or blue in color. Varicose veins are swollen and raised veins. Spider veins are superficial vessels found closer to the surface. Varicose veins can be felt. Spider veins cannot typically be felt. Varicose veins are more often found on the calves or inside the leg. Spider veins can be found on the legs, ankles, feet, and face.

The treatment:

Varicose veins often need medical intervention. Spider veins typically do not require medical attention.

The severity:

Varicose veins can lead to more serious complications. Spider veins aren't typically prone to more serious complications. Let's discuss some of the similarities varicose veins and spider veins share.

The causes:

Although certain factors increase the chance of developing varicose veins and spider veins, the underlying cause is still up for debate. Several factors that increase your chances of developing varicose veins and spider veins include (but are not limited to!):

  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Sun exposure
  • Prolonged sitting
  • Prolonged standing
  • Injury or trauma to the legs
  • Hormonal changes. (These include puberty, pregnancy, birth control pills, menopause, and certain medications.)

The self-care options:

There are many self-care preventive measures you can do to prevent varicose veins or spider veins. Some recommendations include:

  • Elevate your legs
  • Wear support hose
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Eat a high-fiber diet
  • Limit your salt intake
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise (focus on your legs)
  • Eat plenty fruits and vegetables
  • Do not cross your legs when sitting
  • Take an all-natural dietary supplement
  • Limited exposure to the sun or wear sunscreen
  • Interrupt long periods of standing and sitting every 30 minutes

The treatment options:

If the self-care measures don't work for you, medical advice is your next step. Here are some of the options your health care professional will probably discuss with you:

  • Sclerotherapy. This is the most common treatment. Your health care professional will inject a solution into the vein to shut it down. Often, this procedure needs to be repeated. There is a 50-90% chance of improvement if done right away. You should know there are side effects that are possible with this treatment.
  • Laser surgery is recommended for spider veins less than 3mm. The advantage is no incision. The patient will feel a heat sensation when the laser touches the skin. Like the sclerotherapy, side effects are common with this treatment option.
  • Endovenous techniques. This involves radiofrequency and laser options. These techniques are reserved for serious varicose veins. An advantage is it can replace the surgery option and can be performed in your health care professional's office. A catheter is inserted into the vein and sends out laser energy or radiofrequency to shrink and seal the wall. The only reported side effect from this procedure is bruising.
  • Surgery. This is left for the worst varicose veins. Types of surgery include surgical ligation and stripping, ambulatory phlebectomy, and endoscopic vein surgery. As with any procedure, please discuss these in detail with your health care professional.

Despite the seemingly many treatment options, it's important to note that while these procedures have high success rates, it's still very possible more varicose veins to appear. Now that you know the facts, you'll be better able to make the wisest decision for you and your lifestyle.


Photo Credit: hollaBackpackers

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1 Comment

  • Good article.

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