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What Are Varicose And Spider Veins

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Varicose veins are abnormal, dilated blood vessels.  They are caused by a weakening in the vessel wall and appear on the skin in the form of unsightly, swollen clusters of purple and blue veins.  Varicose veins are often accompanied by thin, red capillaries known as spider veins.

Spider veins are also known as venous telangiectasia.  While these pest veins can appear anywhere, they most often make legs and the pelvic area their home.  Most of these veins develop near the surface of the skin, but certain ones are deeper and can cause swelling, darkening, and hardening of the skin above them.

Varicose and spider veins have a lot of common features.  However, there are some major differences that can help you to tell the difference between the two.  Spider veins are generally closer to the surface than varicose veins and are much smaller as well.  They often contain jagged lines and appear like a spider web or tree branch on the affected area.

The difference between varicose and spider veins is hard to identify if you are not a medical professional.  While varicose veins are generally larger in size, they can look similar enough to spider veins to be interchangeable for some people.  That is why it is important that you find a clinic or doctor that can correctly diagnose and treat your condition, if necessary.  Leaving varicose and spider veins untreated is not always a problem.  Generally, the issue is one of physical appearance rather than medical necessity.  The difference can be noticed if your varicose veins are large and bulging, as many often are. However, if they are just appearing, they may seem just as small and insignificant as spider veins.

Spider veins can be caused by a venous insufficiency or prevention of backflow of blood moving up the legs.  They can also be caused by sun exposure, hormonal changes, and genetic factors.

Cause Of Pain

Although most people find these veins to be a cosmetic issue, serious cases can cause pain and discomfort with symptoms including:

  • Swollen legs
  • Muscle cramps, soreness or aching legs
  • Tiredness, burning, throbbing, tingling or heaviness in the legs
  • Soreness behind the knees
  • Itching around the varicose or spider veins.

Painful varicose and spider vein symptoms occur or are worsened by prolonged sitting or standing.  Symptoms may also worsen during menstruation or pregnancy and in certain instances, the veins can develop into painful blood clots.


These types of veins plague both sexes, but are far more common and severe in females and increase with age.  They are very common and affect between 30-60% of the adult population.  Due to their prevalence, varicose and spider vein treatments are in high demand.

A non-invasive approach to treatment is the use of support hose, called compression stockings.  Other first step treatments include proper skin care, a healthy diet combined with weight loss, regular exercise and the avoidance of sitting or standing for long periods of time.  If a job requires constant sitting or standing, frequent breaks in which both feet are elevated is strongly suggested.