Side by side images of woman’s legs with spider and varicose veins

The Difference Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

Spider veins and varicose veins are often referred to interchangeably to describe unsightly and sometimes painful veins on your legs. However, they are two different vein issues, with different attributes caused by venous insufficiency. They develop when the walls and valves of the veins are “weak,” which causes blood to pool in the veins, increasing the pressure and forcing them to become enlarged.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are large, twisting veins that typically can be seen or felt above the skin. Most commonly found in the legs, they may be only an aesthetic concern, however, they can become painful for some people. Many patients report a feeling of heaviness or aching as well as swelling in the legs. Varicose veins can lead to more serious health conditions such as blood clots, skin inflammation or ulcers.

What Are Spider Veins?

Spider veins are tiny blue or red lines that look like spider webs or branches just below the surface of the skin. Usually painless, these are often treated for only cosmetic reasons and generally do not lead to other health problems. While many people have both varicose veins and spider veins, the two conditions are not always connected.


There are several different for spider veins and varicose veins, some that can treat both conditions and others specifically suited for one or the other. Here are some of the most common:

  • Conservative treatment is often the first option and includes noninvasive options like leg exercises, massage therapy and lifestyle changes.
  • Endovenous laser treatment is the primary method of closing the abnormal, refluxing superficial veins in the treatment of venous insufficiency and uses a laser or radiofrequency waves to close the affected veins.
  • Ambulatory phlebectomy uses tiny puncture marks on the skin along the affected varicose vein to insert a small tool that removes the diseased vein in sections.
  • Sclerotherapy eliminates smaller varicose and spider veins through the injection of an FDA-approved drug solution that causes closure of the veins.

If you are concerned about varicose veins or spider veins, or suffer from leg pain, cramping or heaviness, call us to schedule an appointment for an evaluation and treatment options that can help.