What is the difference between spider veins and varicose veins?

Many people may think that spider veins and varicose veins are the same things, and they are terms that can be used interchangeably. With names that sound very similar, it is no wonder there is some confusion and misunderstanding. While there are similarities, they are in fact two different conditions.

So what exactly is the difference between spider veins and varicose veins?

What are spider veins?

thread veins

Spider veins, otherwise referred to as leg thread veins, will look like small red or blue lines, and will often resemble a spider’s web. They will appear just below the surface of the skin and will commonly appear in the legs and the face. Spider veins will appear to be around 1mm in diameter.

Those who have spider veins will generally not feel any associated pain as a result of the veins. Furthermore, they will not lead to any other secondary health conditions.

Treatment for spider veins is considered cosmetic.

What are varicose veins?

varicose veins

Varicose veins are twisted blue veins that will appear to be bulging beneath the surface of the skin. Varicose veins are larger in size than spider veins and will be around 3mm in diameter. They will typically appear in the legs.

Varicose veins can cause the legs to feel heavier or can result in swelling and discomfort. You can also experience leg fatigue, cramps or restless legs.

In some instances, varicose veins can lead to further health conditions. As a result, it is sometimes necessary to treat varicose veins in order to fix any current symptoms and avoid any future problems.

Treating varicose veins is not considered a cosmetic procedure. While it can improve the aesthetics of your legs, the removal of varicose veins can improve the quality of life and prevent other health conditions, such as blood clots, from occurring.

What causes spider and varicose veins?

While they are two separate conditions, the causes are actually relatively similar. The causes for both spider and varicose veins include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Ageing
  • Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Types of clothing worn, such as high heels and tight, restrictive clothes
  • Sitting or standing for long periods of time

If the veins appeared as a result of pregnancy, in most cases they will go away three months after pregnancy.

Both spider and varicose veins are more likely to occur in women than in men.

In some cases, losing weight, elevating the legs or avoiding sitting and standing for long periods of time will help to improve any symptoms.

How are spider veins treated?

There are numerous options for the removal of spider veins:

  • Injection sclerotherapy: this is the most common treatment. This involves injecting a solution directly into the veins. The lining of the blood vessels then become irritated and collapse. Without any blood supply, the spider veins turn to scar tissue and will no longer be visible.
  • Laser removal: the laser will use heat to target the blood vessel. This causes the blood vessel to coagulate and the vein breaks down. The vein will then naturally be dissolved by the body and will no longer be visible. This method will generally require multiple treatments to achieve the desired results.

How are varicose veins treated?

Injection sclerotherapy is a common treatment type for varicose veins. However, there are other options for removal, including:

  • Microphlebectomy: if injection sclerotherapy is not a suitable option, microphlebectomy is often the next step. This involves the surgeons making a small incision in order to get access to the vein. A phlebectomy hook is then used to remove a section of the varicose vein. For some people, multiple treatments will be necessary.
  • EndoVenous laser ablation: this involves using Fotona’s laser to remove the varicose veins. A needle is used to puncture the vein. Through this entry point, a catheter with a laser fibre is inserted into the vein. The Nd:YAG laser then deposits thermal energy into the vein wall and blood. The veins around the varicose veins can then reduce normal blood flow to the affected area. This procedure improves the physical appearance of the varicose veins as well as any associated symptoms.

If you suspect you have either spider veins or varicose veins, book a consultation with one of the surgeons at Centre for Surgery. They will be able to diagnose the correct type of vein, as well as suggest the best surgical or non-surgical removal options for you.

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