Difference between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

Updated on December 12, 2017

You have seen some people whose veins did not look all that normal or you may have started noticing that some of your veins are showing or bulging, but you do not know what condition this is. Are we talking about varicose veins, or should you be looking into spider veins? Which is which and how bad is it?


Spider Veins
Leg affected by spider veins (courtesy www.theveinclinic.com.sg)

Spider veins are usually formed close to the surface of the skin, they are blue or red and they look like a spider web. They can appear on the leg or on the face. They are very similar to the little red veins we see against the white of the eye balls. Spider veins are caused by a blood backup, but they can also appear on account of hormone changes, sun exposure or injuries. They are usually harmless but they can be a sign of the future formation of varicose veins.

Exercise to stimulate the blood flow and special creams can help reduce the web aspect of these spider veins, but a doctor’s checkup to make sure that there is no other problem connected to their appearance is always recommended.

Varicose Veins
Leg affected by varicose veins before and after surgery (courtesy www.veinclinicca.com)

Varicose veins are bulgy, stretched out veins which occur when some of the blood valves are not working properly and they let blood leak back into the leg and get collected there. They usually appear on one side of the body, on thighs, at the back of calves or on the inside of the leg. More than being a cosmetic problem, varicose veins may be an effect of other health problems such as blood clots, thrombosis, poor circulation and leg swelling.

Special surgery can be undergone by people suffering from varicose veins. Compression stockings and topical creams are also recommended for these problems. Varicose veins can be caused by obesity, lack of physical exercise, genetics, pregnancy and other types of hormonal changes or simply by age.

Spider Veins vs Varicose Veins

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

Varicose veins and spider veins look different and have different causes. While spider veins look like popped vessels, giving the impression of something more aggressive and wrong going on inside the body, they are less concerning than varicose veins, which look like swollen vessels and can actually signify more serious medical conditions.

Both of them can be treated, although varicose veins may require surgery of the malfunctioning valve and spider veins can be injected or treated by laser therapy. Lack of physical movement and different hormonal activity can cause both types of veins to appear, therefore a balanced way of life is recommended. They affect both men and women, even though women seem to look into cosmetic solutions for them more than men do.

Comparison Chart

Spider veinsVaricose veins
Blood backing upBlood being improperly pumped is leaking and being collected in the veins
Can be caused by sun exposure, hormone changes and injuriesCan be caused by hormone changes, obesity, genetics, lack of movement
Can be removed with local injections and laser therapyAre surgically removed with a intervention to the valve
May appear on the legs and on the faceMay appear on the legs
Affect both men and womenAffect both men and women
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