Varicose Veins versus Spider Veins

When it comes to the body, veins have an important role. But what is the role of those veins that we begin to see through the skin as we get older? Let’s take a look at varicose veins and spider veins.


The function of veins is to return blood from the extremities to the heart and then to the lungs where it receives more oxygen and gets rid of waste products and begins the cycle again. Veins contain valves so that blood cannot flow backwards. It is already going against gravity to move back towards the heart in the first place.

When there are problems with the veins or too much pressure on them, they can change in shape. Veins also branch off into other parts of the extremities forming what is called superficial veins.

Varicose Veins

Varicosities often occur in the larger veins. When the blood doesn’t circulate as it should it can pool and form bulges that can be seen through the skin. Varicose veins often resemble thickened ropes and occur mostly in the legs but can be found anywhere. Vessels are larger than normal because of the back-up in blood flow.

Varicose veins can be quite painful. They often form during pregnancy due to increased pressure on the vessels from the extra blood volume. But, you don’t have to be pregnant to experience them.

The first sign that you may have a varicose vein is the fact that you can see and feel them through the skin. They are usually accompanied by cramping, itching, swelling and aching pain. Weakened valves may lead to the blood flowing in the wrong direction through the veins and the problems that come afterwards.

Varicose veins can be caused by different factors. One is pregnancy. Another is an abnormality in the veins to begin with such as weakened valves.

Standing in one place without moving can lead to increased pressure on the veins. It can also lead to blood clots in the veins. Blood clots can cause pain and inflammation at the site of the clot. Most are small enough not to be a problem in the superficial vessels. This is called superficial venous thrombosis.

Spider Veins

Spider veins are usually more plentiful than varicose veins. They occur in smaller branches off of these larger veins. They can be seen through the skin but are not palpable like varicose veins. They appear as a web or a sunburst design and are mostly bluish.

Spider veins usually do not cause pain. They are located in the legs, feet and ankles. Men and women can have spider veins but they mostly occur in women.

If you experience spider veins and varicose veins, see your doctor. Treatment may not be required unless varicose veins become painful and you develop dangerous blood clots in the deeper veins. Spider veins are mostly cosmetic but can be treated with laser for their removal.