Varicose veins and spider veins are similar conditions that can cause unsightly blemishes to appear on your skin. Though the causes, signs, and treatment of the two problems might be similar, varicose veins and spider veins are two absolutely different conditions.
Causes of Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
- Heredity or genetic disposition
- Use of contraceptive pills
- Working in jobs that require long hours of standing; for example, hair stylists, factory workers, teachers, nurses, and so on
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) after menopause
- Hormonal changes caused by puberty, pregnancy, and menopause
- Conditions such as constipation and tumors, which increase pressure in your abdominal area
- Blood clot history
Medical research suggests that women have a higher risk of developing both spider veins and varicose veins than men. Further, approximately 30 to 60 percent of adults struggle with either of these two conditions.
Differences between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
When reading about varicose veins and spider veins, you will find that there are some obvious differences between the two conditions.
Varicose veins appear to be large, swollen and protruding blood vessels that turn and twist beneath the skin. These will typically form in the leg area and are visible through your skin. The diameter of varicose veins is at least 4 to 5 mm and they might cause pain at certain times.
Spider veins usually appear as fine veins measuring less than 1mm in diameter. If not clustered together, spider veins are generally less visible as compared to varicose veins. Spider veins will typically show one of the following three patterns:
- Spiderweb: When veins radiate out from one central place
- Thin linear: Usually visible on the inner knee and medial thigh
- Tree branch: Commonly visible on the lateral and anterior thigh
You will notice spider veins to have a reddish and purplish appearance on your legs. They may often resemble a bruise, especially when in clusters. On the other hand, varicose veins have a slightly bluish color and may protrude above your skin level. These veins are softer and spongier in texture when touched (unless they are clotted).
Spider veins are generally a cosmetic problem rather than a medical concern. However, some patients report bleeding in the spider veins when the skin is scrubbed too hard (and due to other similar reasons). This bleeding can also sometimes result in an internal bruise.
Some of the common secondary problems associated with varicose veins include swelling, ulcers, pain, and skin changes. Just like spider veins, varicose veins may also bleed. Further, there is an increased risk of the varicose veins developing blood clots.
Varicose veins can be painful and this is typically associated with the women’s menstrual cycle. The pain usually occurs due to the changing levels of progesterone and estrogen during a regular menstrual cycle. In most cases, varicose veins can be considered as a combination of a medical and cosmetic concern. The condition is chronic and usually worsens over a period of time. In the absence of treatment, the symptoms of varicose veins can become quite severe and pose several health risks that can affect the overall life quality and also interfere with daily activities.
Symptoms of Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
Several people struggling with the problem of varicose veins complain about pain, usually described as cramping or aching in the leg region. Some of the common symptoms associated with varicose veins include:
- Heaviness in legs
- Tingling sensation
The pain accompanying varicose veins is typically treated by the elevation of legs or with the aid of a support hose.
It is possible for the symptoms to become worse in women during pregnancy and during the menstrual cycle. Some women may also experience swelling, skin darkening, and ulcers as symptoms of varicose veins, particularly in the ankles. Thrombophlebitis is a less common symptom of varicose veins and involves the formation of a blood clot and vein inflammation.
In contrast to varicose veins, spider veins are usually asymptomatic. But some patients with spider veins report occasional itching, stinging, and burning sensations in the affected area.
Treatment for Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
Here are some of the popular treatments for spider veins and varicose veins:
It is possible to treat both varicose veins and spider veins with the help of a medical technique that involves the injection of a sclerosing solution in the affected area. Sclerotherapy is considered to be the most effective treatment for spider veins. The ‘sclerosant’ used in the sclerotherapy procedure causes the vein to wither and dissolve. It is directly injected into the vein and might be administered in a foam or liquid form.
Doctors inform that liquid sclerosants such as sodium tetradecyl sulfate and polidocanol are usually safer and more effective than earlier liquid formulations. In the foam state, sclerosants will have no blood interaction and this will help enhance the procedure’s effectiveness.
First made available in the 1930s, Sclerotherapy causes the gradual disappearance of the vein, over a period of 3 to 6 weeks. The Sclerotherapy procedure is quite simple and is usually performed on an outpatient basis.
The VeinGogh Ohmic Thermolysis System is designed for generating small, high-frequency current, which is delivered to your vein through an extremely thin probe. The vein is selectively heated by a small burst of energy and this helps coagulate the blood and causes the vein wall to collapse. The procedure is completed without any impact on the external skin layers and the patient can quickly return to their daily activities with no downtime.
The time taken for the treatment usually depends on the target area’s size. It could last from anywhere between 1 minute (minor lesions) to 25 minutes (extensive conditions of the legs or face).
Intensely pulsed light therapies or surface laser treatments like PhotoDerm and Vasculight are some other options for treating spider veins and varicose veins. Such devices utilize heat energy for selective destruction of abnormal veins. One of the key advantages of laser treatments is that they do not use needles for executing the procedure. Some of the commonly reported side effects of laser therapy include blister formation and staining or discoloration.
The Endovenous therapy involves the insertion of a tiny laser fiber into the targeted vein. The vein receives laser light pulses that cause it to ultimately collapse. Endovenous therapy can be performed on an outpatient basis with the administration of local anesthesia. This type of therapy is highly effective in treating the root cause of varicose and spider veins, that is, saphenous reflux. The elimination of the saphenous reflux could help relieve the main cause of the condition and facilitate the successful treatment of varicose and spider veins.
Varithena is a chemical foam that is injected into your saphenous vein as well as the surrounding veins with the help of ultrasound. It helps in treating venous reflux, that is, the root cause of the problem of varicose veins. This procedure may be effective in conjunction with some other treatments. Varithena could affect the spider veins as well, but it is not generally used for treating them directly.
This refers to the elimination of medium or large-sized varicose veins through a small incision (less than one-fourth inch). These incisions are extremely tiny and the surgeon can often close them up without using stitches. A small section of quality adhesive tape is typically enough for closing the incision (also called butterfly stitch).
During the Microphlebectomy procedure, your surgeon will carefully separate the protruding vein from your leg and treat the painful and unappealing varicosity. The surprising thing about the procedure is that although a big vein gets removed from the leg, there is absolutely zero effect on your normal blood flow.
Microphlebectomy is a cosmetic procedure performed on an outpatient basis, in the safety and comfort of an office setting. Patients experience minimal pain or discomfort during and after the procedure and there is instant relief post surgery. The procedure offers excellent cosmetic results with the removal of the bulge and the appearance of smoother, beautiful legs.
In radiofrequency occlusion, the clinician inserts a tiny catheter into your vein. This catheter works to transport radiofrequency energy signals to the wall of the vein, which ultimately collapses and is sealed shut due to the heat intensity. The radiofrequency occlusion procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis, sometimes under the effect of local anesthesia.
Self-care measure like exercise, leg elevation, and compression stockings could be helpful in relieving pain and preventing the varicose veins condition from becoming worse. When such measures fail to show results, it would