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How do spider veins differ from varicose veins?

I have both varicose veins and spider veins on my legs, what's the difference? Are they the same or are they two separate problems with different causes?


Doctors Answers (7)

The main difference is the size of the vein. Bigger veins that are not working will turn into bulging varicose veins. Smaller veins that are not working will turn into spider veins. If you see both types of veins on your legs, you probable have a problem with some of the deeper veins in your leg. In order to correct the problem we need to treat the deepest vein that is not working first. We will need to see you in the office to perform an ultrasound and determine the cause of your problems.

Varicose veins are large and distorted rope-like veins that are damaged and may be near the surface of the skin or may be deeper and not visible except by an ultrasound exam. Veins grow easily throughout your lifetime and start out with a normal shape and function being relatively straight with branching to other veins. Over time, due to traumas and other damaging forces including increased venous pressures and failed vein valves, the vein can become dysfunctional and enlarge in size. Spider veins are very small compared to varicose veins, red to purple in color, and are very close to the surface of the skin. Spider veins are caused by damaged small reticular vein and dilated capillaries. Although veins can progressively enlarge over time, a spider vein will become a larger spider vein and will not become a different type of vein. Therefore, spider veins and varicose veins are two separate problems effecting different sized veins but may have similar causes such as trauma or pregnancies.

Spider veins, "telangiectasia" in medical terms, are tiny veins in the skin measuring less than 1 mm in diameter. Abnormal veins in the deeper part of the skin typically measuring 1-3 mm in diameter are called reticular veins. Abnormal veins on or deep into the skin larger than 3 mm in diameter are called varicose veins. The are manifestations of the same process in which the veins stretch over time and the one-way valves in the veins fail. Some patients have no symptoms while other have pain, tenderness, or leg swelling as a result. The principal underlying cause of varicose veins is genetic, involving many different genes from both parents which have something to do with the strength of the vein walls.

They can be related, and frequently are. A complete vein mapping and evaluation will give you the answer. Insurance will pay for symptomatic vein problems.

Spider veins are the superficial extension of varicose veins. They are connected through below skin vein channels and therefore are part if the same disease process.

"Spider" veins are small venous complexes just beneath the dermis and into the dermis proper. Varicose veins are larger and are branches from the saphenous-reticular vein systems.

The difference spider veins and varicose veins is size and location. They are both dilated veins but varicose vein are bigger, 4mm or greater in size. The varicose veins are dilated reticular veins that are just below the surface of the skin and spider veins are dilated intradermal venules at the surface of the skin .

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