With age, many individuals notice jagged purple lines or swollen bluish cords spreading across their thighs and calves. These warped blood vessels occur in up to 60% of adults.

What Are Spider Veins?

Spider Veins are small, twisted blood vessels that are visible through the skin. They may be red, purple, or blue and most often appear on the legs or face. They take their name from their striking spiderweb pattern.

What Are Varicose Veins?

When larger blood vessels become swollen and twisted, they present as varicose veins. They appear dark blue and stick out from the skin like raised tunnels. Varicose veins can develop anywhere in the body, but are usually found on the legs and ankles.

What Causes Spider/Varicose Veins?

Healthy veins carry blood to the heart, passing through a series of one-way valves that prevent backflow. Veins are surrounded by muscles, which contract and force blood through these valves, moving in the correct direction towards the heart. However, problems with these valves, muscles, or the blood itself can cause blood to pool within a vein. As blood collects, pressure builds and the vessel walls weaken. As a result, the vein may bulge and twist. Depending on the size of the blood vessel and extent of swelling, the result is a spider vein or a varicose vein.

Who Gets Spider/Varicose Veins?

Anyone can get spider veins or varicose veins, but women are twice as susceptible as men. These conditions are also more common in individuals with jobs that require them to remain standing for extended periods of time. Other factors that may contribute to the development of spider and/or varicose veins include obesity, pregnancy, prior trauma, history of surgery within the leg, genetic predisposition, and certain other medical conditions.

Varicose Vein Symptoms

For some people, spider veins and varicose veins are more than an eyesore. In particular, varicose veins may cause aching or cramping in the legs. The affected area may throb, burn, tingle, or feel heavy. Severely inflamed veins can be tender to the touch and may have reduced blood circulation, leading to itchy, swollen ankles. In severe instances, varicose veins can also produce chronic skin and tissue changes such as discoloration and ulceration of the skin.

Spider Vein Symptoms/Complications

Spider veins may be unsightly and annoying, but they rarely pose a serious health threat.

Diagnosing Spider/Varicose Veins

Spider veins and varicose veins are easy to diagnose. The initial examination begins with a review of the patient’s medical history, medications, prior procedures, and lifestyle habits.

Next, there is a physical examination, focusing on the legs, feet, and other affected areas. This exam will check for swelling, tender spots, and any changes in skin color. Varicosities that cause pain, soreness, and muscle fatigue or cramping are examined further with an ultrasound.

This exam does not hurt and takes about an hour to complete. A series of blood vessel measurements will be taken to determine the degree of varicose vein insufficiency. Based on these measurements and the individual’s symptoms, a treatment plan will be made. Cosmetic treatments for Spider and Varicose veins are usually not covered by most insurances.