What’s the Difference Between Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?

We might be putting away our shorts and swimsuits for the year, but it’s still important to keep a close eye on the skin you’re in. Have you noticed that your legs have started to look a little more discolored lately? 

The culprit could be spider veins, varicose veins, or both. When you know how to distinguish them, you can pursue the right treatment to look and feel your best. Today, we’re breaking down the difference between varicose veins and spider veins so you can get started in confidence.

What Are Spider Veins?

What are spider veins and where do they come from? In short, these are small blood vessels traveling throughout your legs. They may appear to be slightly turning, and usually appear in shades of blue, purple, and red.

Due to their bold appearance, spider veins are easy to see through the skin on your legs. In addition, you may also notice them on your face or chest.

If you have them, then you may notice how they began. Spider veins occur when blood gathers or pools in veins near your skin’s surface. There isn’t a universal underlying cause, but there are some factors that can lead to their development. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Trauma to that part of your body
  • Hormonal changes or fluctuations

Spider veins become more prevalent as you get older. In fact, they are most common in people over the age of 30. They can also occur in pregnant women, due to the changes in their hormones. 

Physical Symptoms to Note

While the appearance of spider veins is noticeable, they can also cause physical aches and pains. The most common symptoms reported include:

  • Cramping legs
  • Throbbing legs
  • Restless legs
  • Swollen legs
  • Itchy legs
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In addition, you may also notice that your legs feel unusually heavy. On the other hand, some people simply see the discoloration on their legs but do not experience any physical symptoms at all.

Treatments Available

Your physician will be able to tell you if your spider veins are related to a more serious underlying condition. If they are superficial in nature, then a treatment called sclerotherapy can help diminish their appearance.

During this treatment, your doctor will inject a special type of medication into the veins. This solution interacts with their lining and ultimately prevents blood from flowing to them. In time, this causes the veins to collapse and lose color.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Now that we’ve covered what spider veins entail, what are varicose veins?

These veins are much larger and can appear swollen. They are also visible through your skin, although they aren’t always as pronounced or easy to spot as spider veins. They, too, appear to twist and turn around your legs.

Some of the same risk factors that apply to spider veins also apply to varicose veins. These include genetics, obesity, and changes in hormone levels. In addition, there are also a few other factors that are predominantly associated with varicose veins. These include:

  • Jobs that require prolonged periods of standing
  • Birth control medication
  • Medical issues with blood clots
  • History of vein surgery
  • Exposure to UV rays

Varicose veins can also occur in people who have an unusual amount of pressure on their abdomen. Sometimes, this issue is medical and uncontrollable. For instance, stomach tumors and constipation can both exacerbate varicose veins. 

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Other times, it is controlled. People who wear garments like girdles or pants with tight waistbands may notice more varicose veins than others.

Like spider veins, they also become more common with age. Women who experience them may notice that their symptoms are more severe in the days leading up to their menstrual cycle. 

Physical Symptoms to Note

The physical symptoms of varicose veins can be much more pronounced and serious than those of spider veins. You may feel an intense throbbing sensation in your legs, as well as aches or cramps.

Other symptoms include:

  • Restless legs
  • Tired legs
  • Heavy legs
  • Burning legs
  • Tingling legs

Unlike spider veins, varicose veins tend to bulge and swell at a greater rate. This can be at the root of much of the discomfort. If you’re experiencing symptoms that align with these, then it’s important to learn more about spider veins and speak to your healthcare provider. 

Treatments Available

Some people who suffer from varicose veins can find relief by wearing special support hose that relieves some of the inflammation and swelling associated with the condition. These are found at most clothing establishments, as well as certain pharmacies and surgical supply stores. You can also raise your legs for short-term relief.

If the varicose veins are superficial, then sclerotherapy can work in this case, too. There are also other surgical procedures that can help relieve more significant symptoms. These include treatments that utilize lasers, heat therapy, and other resources to collapse the veins and seal them shut.

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In addition, some people can find great relief by making a few key lifestyle changes. Walking and moving your legs more can help keep them at bay, as can losing weight, sleeping well, and ensuring proper skin hygiene. 

Spot the Difference Between Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

It can be disheartening to look down and notice discoloration on the skin of your legs. You may wonder what’s going on and what your next steps should be.

Now that we’ve covered the main difference between varicose veins and spider veins, you should be able to identify which condition you’re dealing with. Still, it’s important to visit your physician to receive a proper diagnosis. Then, you can work together to develop a treatment plan.

Are you looking for more health and lifestyle advice you can trust? We have plenty of informative guides to share, so keep checking out our page!

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