What’s The Difference Between Varicose Veins And Spider Veins?

Today’s Question: How do I know if I have varicose veins or spider veins? Cheryl, Warsaw

A. Cheryl, this is a very common question that I hear multiple times a day in my practice. Trying to decipher what those annoying and often embarrassing veins on your legs are can be confusing. Let me try and explain to you the differences between varicose and spider veins.

When you look at your legs, if you see veins that bulge out, resemble worms and are blue or green in color, these are varicose veins. They measure the width of a pencil or larger. Varicose veins are typically from your genetics and can get worse with age, pregnancy and standing occupations. Often times, varicose veins cause some degree of aching or burning and can be associated with swelling around your foot and ankle.

Sclero collage

If you look at your legs, Cheryl, and you see tiny, flat, feathery veins resembling a spider web that are purple or red in color these are spider veins. They measure only about the width of dental floss. Spider veins are caused from both genetics and female hormones. Men typically do not get spider veins, but can get varicose veins.

Sclerotherapy collage VIMS

It is possible to have both kinds of veins on your legs. If that is the case, the larger varicose veins need to be treated first. Often times, the smaller veins are being fed by the larger veins. By treating the larger ones first, sometimes the smaller ones will go away on their own. The good news, Cheryl, is that gone are the days of varicose vein stripping surgery which required multiple incisions and weeks off of work. “Now surgeons can treat varicose veins in an office setting with laser devices allowing patients to get back to work within a day or two,” according Dr. KT Kishan, vascular surgeon. If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to medical complications including leg swelling, skin ulcerations and blood clots. Some insurance companies will cover the cost of varicose vein treatments while they will not cover spider vein treatments.

Spider veins are treated with either sclerotherapy (injection of medication) or laser. After having a spider vein treatment, you can resume all of your normal activities afterwards. This procedure can even be done on your lunch hour. The sclerotherapy injections are performed using a tiny needle and is very tolerable. Some varicose veins can also be treated with sclerotherapy. It just depends on the size and type of the vein. The only way to determine which treatment is right for you is with a medical evaluation. If spider veins are left untreated, there are no resulting medical complications.

Cheryl, I hope this brief explanation helps you better understand the difference between varicose and spider veins. If you have any more questions, be sure to consult with a medical professional.

Jennifer-Lab Coat-6cropJennifer Kauffman is a Board Certified Nurse Practitioner, practicing in Warsaw and Ft. Wayne. She is a sought after speaker at medical conferences such as the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons. Jennifer is a member of American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and Coalition of Advance Practice Nurses of Indiana. She received her Nursing and Nurse Practitioner degrees from Goshen College, and Indiana Wesleyan University. Jennifer is a Clinical Instructor nationally to physicians and nurses on sclerotherapy.

Do you have a question for Jennifer, about this article or another cosmetic skin care issue? Please call Vein Institute & Medical Spa at 574-267-1900 to have your questions answered and considered for future columns. Questions can also be submitted online at www.veinmedicalspa.com

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