Vein-related issues are common and can cause discomfort, pain, and cosmetic concerns to name but a few. Two frequently misunderstood conditions are spider veins and varicose veins. While both involve veins, they have distinct characteristics, causes, and treatment approaches. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the differences between these two conditions to help you better understand them.
Spider veins, also known as telangiectasias or broken capillaries, are small, thin veins that appear close to the skin’s surface. They often resemble a spider web or a branching pattern, hence the name. Spider veins are typically red, blue, or purple in colour and measure less than 1 millimetre in diameter. They most commonly occur on the legs and face, particularly around the nose and cheeks.
Spider veins are primarily caused by the dilation of tiny blood vessels. Factors contributing to their development include underlying vein problems, genetics, hormonal changes, prolonged standing or sitting, obesity, and pregnancy.
Spider veins are very common, affecting around 80% of adults (evenly split across both sexes) at some point in life and they are usually associated with underlying vein problems.
Read more on Spider Vein causes here.
Varicose veins are larger, twisted veins that bulge and often appear raised above the skin’s surface. They can be blue, purple, or flesh-coloured and are typically found in the legs. Varicose veins develop when the valves within the veins malfunction, causing blood to flow backward and pool, leading to the veins’ enlargement.
Heredity plays a significant role in the development of varicose veins. Other contributing factors include obesity, pregnancy, hormonal changes, age, and prolonged periods of standing or sitting. It should be stated that 15 to 20% of adults have varicose veins. However, another 15 to 20% of adults have hidden varicose veins (these are varicose veins that are unnoticeable to the human eye).
Every year, 1 in 23 people with varicose veins will progress1. This progression can be swollen ankles, red or brown skin marks around the ankles to leg ulcers. Also, others will bleed from their varicose veins or get “phlebitis” (clots in varicose veins).
View our wide range of treatment options here – https://thewhiteleyclinic.co.uk/procedures/
Spider veins and varicose veins may share some similarities due to their association with veins and blood circulation, but they are distinct conditions with various causes and treatment approaches (of course dependant on the underlying factors that contribute to each which can only be determined following a duplex ultrasound scan by a trained vascular technologist).
If you’re seeking expert guidance or treatment for spider veins, varicose veins, or any other venous concerns, The Whiteley Clinic is here to help. Our experienced team of specialists is dedicated to providing personalised care and advanced treatments to address your unique needs. Don’t let vein-related issues hold you back—book a consultation with us today to take the first step toward healthier, more confident legs. Your well-being is our priority, and we’re committed to helping you achieve optimal venous health.
1 J Vasc Surg Venous Lymphat Disord. 2015;3(1):18–26.