February 22, 2023

Spider Veins vs Varicose Veins: Understanding The 6 Main Differences

Wondering if you have spider veins or varicose veins? Keep reading to learn the 6 main differences between spider and varicose veins here.

Spider and varicose veins are two types of vein conditions that can affect people of all ages. Although they may look similar, they are quite different.

Are spider veins and varicose veins dangerous?

If you have spider or varicose veins, you may wonder if they pose health risks. In general, these conditions are not considered dangerous but can lead to serious health problems if left untreated in some circumstances.

For instance, spider veins are generally considered a cosmetic problem. Still, they may indicate an underlying health condition, such as venous insufficiency, which can lead to blood clots, ulcers, and even skin cancer.

However, varicose veins can become dangerous if they rupture. Ruptured veins are a medical emergency that can cause blood loss and severe health complications. 

While generally considered harmless, there are some rare cases where complications can arise. For example, if a person has an underlying blood clotting disorder, they may be at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a serious condition in which a blood clot forms in the body's deep veins. DVT can be life-threatening if the clot breaks free and travels to the lungs.

If you are concerned about your varicose or spider veins, you should talk to your doctor. They can help determine the best way to treat varicose veins or spider veins.

Are spider veins and varicose veins the same?

A leg full of varicose veins

Spider and varicose veins both involve abnormal vein function. However, varicose and spider veins are not the same. Spider veins are smaller and closer to the skin's surface than varicose veins. They are also less likely to cause pain or other symptoms.

Are there any similarities between varicose veins and spider veins?

Varicose veins and spider veins are both common types of venous insufficiency. These two conditions share many of the same symptoms, including:

  • Cramping, pain, or aching in the legs.
  • Heaviness in the legs.
  • Itching or burning sensation in the legs.
  • Swelling in the ankles or feet.

What are the key differences between varicose and spider veins?

Even though spider and varicose veins may seem similar, they have a few key differences. Here are 6 primary differences between these two conditions that you should know:

1. The appearance

A varicose vein is usually more prominent, darker, and more raised than a spider vein and can appear twisted and bulging. Whereas spider veins, on the other hand, are smaller, have a red or blue color, are typically found on the legs and face, and are closer to the skin's surface.

2. The symptoms

A woman has cramps in her legs

Both varicose and spider veins can cause pain, fatigue, heaviness, itching, burning, cramping, swelling, and restlessness. But it is different because varicose tends to cause more severe symptoms.

3. The complications

Varicose veins can lead to more serious complications and health problems such as blood clots, ulcers, bleeding, and rupture. Whereas spider veins generally don’t cause any difficulties.

4. The risk factors

A pregnant woman with spider veins

Anyone can develop a varicose and spider vein, but certain factors increase your risk. These include pregnancy, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle for varicose veins. While spider veins, as some theories have suggested, arise from varicose veins and are secondary to a similar mechanism of valvular incompetence in chronic venous disease.

5. The insurance coverage

Most insurance plans will cover the treatment of varicose veins due to the potential complications they can cause. Whereas spider vein treatment is typically considered cosmetic and isn’t covered by insurance.

6. The treatments


Varicose vein treatment often requires more aggressive therapy than spider veins. Treatment options for varicose veins include surgery or vein stripping, laser therapy, and radiofrequency ablation. In contrast, spider vein treatments are typically minimally invasive and can consist of sclerotherapy, laser therapy, and wearing compression stockings.

As you can see, these two conditions have some key differences. Therefore, if you think you may have varicose or spider veins, you must see a doctor so they can properly diagnose and treat you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are spider veins worse than varicose veins?

Based on their differences, spider veins tend to be less painful and cause fewer complications than varicose veins. Additionally, spider vein treatments are less invasive than varicose veins treatments.

Many experts believe that spider veins are more of a cosmetic concern than a medical one. However, even though spider veins may not be as serious as varicose veins, they can still cause discomfort, affect your self-confidence, and signal an underlying health problem.

Can spider veins turn into varicose veins?

The simple answer is yes. If spider veins are left untreated, they can turn into varicose veins as they are both caused by venous insufficiency. Still, spider veins are considered a milder form of venous insufficiency than varicose veins.

Can I stop varicose or spider veins from spreading or getting worse?

The best way to prevent varicose veins and spider veins from spreading is to keep your legs elevated when possible to encourage blood flow and prevent the blood from pooling in the leg veins.

Another prevention method is to wear compression stockings, which help support your veins and prevent them from becoming stretched or damaged. In addition, compression stockings are considered a conservative way to begin treatment for varicose and spider veins and may be required by insurance before additional therapies.

However, if you have varicose or spider veins, there are several medical treatments available. Talk to your doctor about which treatment option is right for you. With proper treatment, you can stop spider veins from spreading and improve the appearance of your legs.


While spider and varicose veins are both caused by venous insufficiency, symptoms and potential complications can differ.  Consult with one of our experienced providers today to learn what treatment plans are best if you are concerned or want to prevent your spider or varicose veins from worsening.


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