January 22, 2023

Spider Veins vs Stretch Marks: What’s the Difference?

Find out the key similarities and differences between spider veins and stretch marks, so you can better understand which treatment is right for you.

Do you know the differences between spider veins and stretch marks? This blog post will examine these two common skin conditions, including their characteristics, causes, and treatment options. By the end, you will better understand these conditions and how to address them.

Are Spider Veins the Same as Stretch Marks?

Spider veins leg

Stretch marks and spider veins are two completely different skin conditions that can affect any gender, but women develop stretch marks more often than men.

Spider veins are visible veins under the surface of the skin and have a web-like appearance. They are usually caused by increased blood flow in the body or weak blood vessel walls and appear as red, blue, or purple lines on the legs and face.

Meanwhile, stretch marks occur when rapid weight gain causes the skin to stretch beyond its natural elasticity. Additionally, stretch marks commonly appear during pregnancy when a woman’s growing uterus causes her abdomen to stretch quickly.

Similarities and Differences Between Stretch Marks vs. Spider Veins

Spider veins and stretch marks or white marks are both skin conditions that can affect many people, especially pregnant women and those who experience weight fluctuations. Here are some key similarities and differences between the two that should be noted:

The Similarities:

Stretch marks and spider veins in pregnant women
  • Aesthetic Concerns: Both of these conditions present a cosmetic issue for many people, making them feel self-conscious about their appearance and seek treatment to reduce or remove them.
  • Location: The locations where these two conditions appear are often similar; both are found in areas of the body with more fat cells, such as buttocks, legs, thighs, stomach, and breasts—particularly areas prone to rapid changes in size or shape.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, there is an increase in blood flow to the uterus, which can put pressure on the small veins in the legs, leading to spider or varicose veins. Also during pregnancy, hormone changes cause the skin to become more elastic and stretch out rapidly as the baby grows. This rapid stretching causes tears in the dermal layer of the skin, which leads to stretch marks.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can also increase one's chances of developing spider veins or stretch marks due to the skin being stretched.
  • Itchy Sensation: Both spider veins and stretch marks can feel itchy due to inflammation caused by increased blood vessels under the skin or weakened elastin from stretching. This is particularly true for those who are pregnant or have obesity-related issues, as their hormones can be unbalanced during this time, leading to itching sensations around the affected areas.

The Differences

compression stockings
  • Risk Factors: Spider veins can be caused by multiple risk factors, such as poor circulation, weakened valves in the vein walls, hormonal changes, pregnancy, obesity, and heredity. On the other hand, stretch marks occur when too much strain is placed on the skin due to rapid weight gain or growth which causes skin stretching and tears in the dermal layer.
  • Diagnosis: For spider veins, doctors may perform a physical examination along with other tests such as an ultrasound or venogram to diagnose them correctly, and to ensure there is no presence of an underlying medical condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Meanwhile, stretch marks are typically diagnosed by visually examining where and how deep the line is located on the skin's surface.
  • Treatment Options: Several treatment options are available for both spider veins and stretch marks. Spider vein treatments include wearing compression stockings, sclerotherapy, and radiofrequency ablation (RFA). To eliminate stretch marks, treatment options include retinoid cream, hyaluronic acid cream, pulsed dye laser therapy, fractional photothermolysis, microdermabrasion, and microneedling.
  • Prevention: It's important to recognize the difference in prevention methods. Spider veins can be prevented by avoiding long periods of standing or sitting, exercising regularly, and not wearing tight clothing. To prevent stretch marks it is important to maintain a healthy weight, avoid drastic weight changes, and use moisturizers containing vitamin E and hyaluronic acid to help retain skin elasticity. 
  • Health Complications: Spider veins may be accompanied by chronic venous insufficiency which can lead to swelling of the legs, varicose veins, or even ulceration. Stretch marks are not typically associated with any other health condition but can cause psychological distress due to their appearance on the body.

Is Spider Vein & Stretch Mark Removal Painful?

sclerotherapy for spider veins legs

The answer depends on the type of treatment method being used; there are a variety of vein procedures available that can be used to get rid of spider veins. Generally, painless treatments, such as sclerotherapy and radiofrequency ablation, are available to remove spider veins. During these procedures, the patient may experience mild discomforts, such as a slight pinching or stinging sensation, due to the injection itself.

Stretch marks often occur in areas of the skin where fat deposits have increased rapidly or due to hormonal changes. Treatments for stretch marks typically don’t cause pain. However, it can take a while before they start showing results. For example, topical creams or laser treatments can help reduce their appearance, but it may take multiple sessions for stretch marks to be eliminated. 

Overall, leg veins treatments can have varying levels of discomfort depending on the type of treatment used and individual tolerance. Stretch marks treatments tend to be less painful but often require multiple sessions before seeing results.

As always, it’s important to speak with a doctor about any questions or concerns regarding leg vein removal or other skin concerns. By doing so, you can make an informed decision that’s right for your needs and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my stretch marks look like broken blood vessels?

Stretch marks are caused by rapid stretching of the skin. This is often seen in pregnant women and those who have recently gained weight. When stretch marks appear, they may look like thin lines of broken blood vessels on the skin. This occurs because stretch marks stretch the underlying layer of your skin (dermis) beyond its normal capacity. This causes small tears in the dermis, resulting in a decrease in collagen production and a visible red or purple discoloration on the skin’s surface.

Can you get spider veins in early pregnancy?

While spider veins may be common in later pregnancy, it is not uncommon to get them early on as well. This condition can begin during the first trimester of pregnancy due to increased hormones and extra blood flow throughout the body. The increased pressure on your legs from carrying extra weight can also contribute to the development of spider veins during pregnancy.

What is the difference between broken capillaries and spider veins?

Broken capillaries and spider veins both refer to a visible collection of veins located close to the skin's surface, however, there are slight differences in their origin and appearances.

Broken capillaries are commonly found on the face and are caused by excess pressure or trauma such as squeezing, picking, or vigorous scrubbing. These broken capillaries appear as red lines or patches near the surface of the skin.

Spider veins, on the other hand, can be found closer to the surface of the skin and are made up of thin red or blue lines that branch out like a web. They often appear on the face, legs, or ankles and are caused by increased pressure in these areas which then weakens and damages nearby veins.

Can varicose veins look like stretch marks?

Varicose veins legs

Varicose veins and stretch marks look quite different from each other. Varicose veins are caused by blood pooling in the veins, which occurs when the valves in the veins are weakened or damaged, leading to poor circulation and a pronounced, raised appearance. On the other hand, stretch marks are caused by a breakdown of the skin's collagen fibers.


Spider veins and stretch marks share some similarities in their appearance and causes; however, they are two distinct conditions that respond to different treatment methods depending on the individual case.

If you're interested in learning more about spider veins or stretch marks, schedule an appointment with Vein Envy today. We offer complimentary vein screenings so that we can determine the best course of action for you!


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