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Spider Veins VS Varicose Veins

by – August 18, 2023

Understanding the Difference Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

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.

Thread/ Spider Veins

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.

Causes of Spider Veins:

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.

Treatment Options for Spider Veins: Several treatment options are available for spider veins, including:

  1. Microsclerotherapy – At The Whiteley Clinic, once we have treated any underlying vein problems that may be present, we almost exclusively recommend the technique of ‘microsclerotherapy’ for the treatment of thread/spider veins on the legs. This involves injecting a very dilute ‘sclerosant’ solution into the tiny veins to narrow the dilated blood vessels. This is achieved using an exceptionally small needle under very high magnification. The sclerosant solution used at The Whiteley Clinic is selected for both being highly effective at narrowing the veins but also for having a numbing effect on the veins being treated, thereby   reducing any potential discomfort for the patient.
  1. Laser Therapy / Intense Pulsed Light: These treatments are offered by our sister company Absolute Aesthetics and is suitable for spider veins on the face and not your legs. Both treatments operate at a wavelength that specifically targets hemoglobin, the red pigment of blood. For more information on these treatments, please visit www.absoluteaesthetics.co.uk or contact the team at info@absoluteaethetics.co.uk

Varicose Veins

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.

Causes of Varicose Veins:

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).

Treatment Options for Varicose Veins: Varicose veins can be managed through various treatments, such as:

  1. Sonovein® HD(Echotherapy Treatment) – his is the most revolutionary way of doing surgery. Unlike endovenous laser, radiofrequency and even foam sclerotherapy, this treatment is 100% non-invasive. This treatment utilises High Intense Focused Ultrasound whereby the ultrasound is beamed across the skin, and focused onto the vein to be treated.
  2. Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA): This minimally invasive procedure uses laser energy to heat and close off the affected vein under local anaesthetic.
  3. Phlebectomy: Phlebectomy is effective at removing surface varicose veins – but not at treating the underlying cause. Hence phlebectomy is usually used in conjunction with other procedures, such as endovenous laser (EVLA or EVLT), radiofrequency, TRLOP or pelvic vein embolisation. All of these combinations are included in the Whiteley Protocol. Ambulatory phlebectomies are phlebectomies that are done under local anaesthetic, as part of a walk-in, walk-out varicose vein operation.

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.

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1 J Vasc Surg Venous Lymphat Disord. 2015;3(1):18–26.


The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Always seek the advice of a doctor or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site and the information provided is not a substitute for medical advice.