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

It’s understandable to think that spider veins and varicose veins are one in the same thing. After all, they can both be problematic and have similar causes, symptoms, and treatments but in reality, they are different and therefore they should be treated as such.

Firstly, however, it’s worth taking a look at why spider veins and varicose veins are deemed as similar.

For the most part, spider veins and varicose veins share similar causes including:

Any of these risks will only increase the likelihood of developing one type of venous disease or the other.

And now for the differences…

Spider veins and varicose veins – Descriptive differences

Just so we’re clear, spider veins are delicate clusters of tiny blood vessels that are noticeable through the skin’s surface – no more than 1mm in width. As the name suggests, they are identified by their spiderweb-like appearance. They mostly appear in the legs but are also common in the ankles, calves, and face.

Varicose veins, on the other hand, are identified by their singular twisty, gnarly appearance. Usually a deep purple or blue color, varicose veins can also be deep red. They are larger than spider veins (at around 3mm in diameter) and are usually found in the thigh and leg area.


While most spider veins are asymptomatic, meaning that they generate no symptoms or problems, they can cause slight itching or stinging, and in some instances, secondary skin problems. As a result, spider veins are usually more of a cosmetic concern. So most people will look to treat them because they look unsightly – rather than because they are making life miserable.

Conversely, varicose veins can be extremely problematic. Common symptoms include:

Varicose veins are also more prone to developing blood clots which if accidentally dislodged can cause a potentially life-threating condition known as a pulmonary embolism (PE).

So now we’ve seen the similarities and the differences, it’s worth taking a closer look at how each is treated.


Treatments for Spider veins


We’ve already mentioned that the majority of people seek treatment for spider veins out of cosmetic concern. One treatment that’s ideal for eradicating them is sclerotherapy. This is a process whereby a safe vein-dissolving agent is injected into the area. While it can also be used as one of the many treatments for varicose veins, sclerotherapy is the gold standard treatment when it comes to spider veins.

Laser therapy

Another treatment, particularly for facial spider veins, is laser therapy. While this is not commonly used for the treatment of varicose veins, it is considered a reliable treatment in the removal of facial spider veins. So much so in fact that laser light therapy (along with sclerotherapy) is now a proven ‘go-to’ treatment for the removal of these delicate spider-like vessels.

When the laser light is applied it generates heat-inducing photons. When the photons are absorbed into the blood vessels it starts destroying them from within. Over time, as the damaged vein continues to shrink, it eventually disappears, leaving the patient with a vein-free complexion.

As you can see, there are only a handful of treatments available when it comes to the successful treatment of spider veins, but varicose veins are a different story. There are numerous surgical and non-surgical treatments at hand. They include:

Treatments for varicose veins

Ambulatory phlebectomy

This is a minimally invasive surgical treatment that involves a series of micro incisions enabling the problematic varicose vein or veins to be removed.

Endovenous therapy

Endovenous therapy was the process that replaced vein stripping at the start of the 21st century. Like laser therapy, it involves heat (this time in the form of radiofrequency) to burn and cauterize the problematic vein. This, in turn, cuts off the feeding supply to the vein, thus destroying it from within.


When it comes to treating spider veins and varicose veins, the VenaSeal process can work for both, although it isn’t directly used to treat spider vein problems, it can have a secondary effect on them. As the process doesn’t utilize heat or needles, any discomfort felt is minimal and recovery is usually pretty speedy.

Ideal for treating larger varicose veins, a medical-grade glue is inserted into the vein via a tiny catheter. Once inserted, the glue proceeds to shut down the vein thus preventing the blood from flowing the wrong way through the vein.

Eventually, the problematic vein collapses and shrinks, which in turn allows the blood to be rerouted naturally via surrounding healthy veins. As the diseased vein dies, any troublesome symptoms you may have should then cease to exist.


Perhaps less commonly used for varicose vein treatment, but equally proven is a process known as Varithena. This time, instead of a medical-grade glue, an injectable chemical foam is introduced to the vein effectively shutting it off and forcing the blood to find an alternative route. As a result, the enlarged vein will collapse and the foam dissolves over time as it becomes more exposed to blood.

So there you have it, the differences (and similarities) between spider veins and varicose veins…

Spider Veins and varicose veins treatment in Missouri

Here at the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Treatment (MINT), we specialize in treating patients with spider veins and varicose veins. Dr Akinwande (Dr A) is a highly skilled physician who specializes in non-surgical endovascular procedures. Don’t suffer from spider veins and varicose veins problems! Instead, come and talk to Dr A and the team who can treat you at one of four convenient locations throughout the St Louis area.

For more remote patients we also provide access to telemedicine allowing you to get the diagnosis you need at a place of your convenience. Call us today to schedule a consultation and take the first steps towards getting your life and health back on track.

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