Varicose Veins vs. Spider Veins

Varicose Veins and Spider Veins Differences_Northern Illinois Vein Clinic
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Many people make the mistake of using the terms “varicose veins” and “spider veins” interchangeably, but they are actually two different vein disorders. The Mayo Clinic describes spider veins as “a common, mild variation of varicose veins” but also states that “varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort” and may sometimes lead to more serious problems.

In this article, we will break down the definition of each ailment, and their correlating symptoms, causes, and treatments. We will also identify the reasons why the two can easily be confused with one another.

Spider Veins

Also known as telangiectasias in the medical community, spider veins are clusters of little blood vessels that grow very near the surface of the skin. They are most commonly found in the face and legs. You can identify them by their red, blue, or purple hue, and their twisted, twirling formation. Because they develop so close to the skin’s surface, they are easy to see through the skin.

Spider Veins Symptoms

Spider vein symptoms are usually cosmetic in nature. Yet, when spider veins turn problematic, the affected area can develop the following uncomfortable symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Throbbing
  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Heaviness
  • Tingling
  • Cramping

What Causes Spider Veins?

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Venous insufficiencies are what lead to spider veins. This means that the vein valves are operating in an erroneous fashion, causing the area to swell and the skin to change. Blood begins to back up in the system, therefore causing the veins to bulge, leading to spider veins. Aside from venous insufficiency, spider veins can also be caused by the following circumstances:

  • A shift in hormones, such as that caused by puberty, pregnancy, or menopause
  • Sun exposure
  • Injuries in the affected area

Varicose Veins

According to WebMD, 30 to 60 percent of adults experience varicose veins. This is a sizable portion of the adult population. When compared to spider veins, varicose veins are much larger in size. They are similar in that they both occur in the blood vessels due to blood back up, but varicose veins are much more swollen. Varicose veins are identified by bulging, contorted blood vessels, as opposed to the tiny blood vessels that make up spider veins.

Varicose Veins Symptoms

Although varicose veins can formulate in any set of veins in the body, they tend to occur most commonly in the legs.

The following leg symptoms are frequently described by patients:

  • Aching and cramping
  • Lethargicness
  • Restlessness
  • Burning
  • Throbbing
  • Tingling
  • Heaviness
  • Swelling
  • Ulcers
  • Darkening of the skin

Women in the midst of a pregnancy or menstrual cycle may find that these symptoms are intensified. In worst case scenarios, varicose veins can lead to thrombophlebitis – a severely painful blood clot that increases the inflammation of the vein.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

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Some individuals are predisposed to varicose veins due to genes. They are found in women more often than men, and are more likely to develop as one ages. However, the following list of factors increase your chances of developing varicose veins:

  • Professions that consist of constant standing, such as chefs, nurses, hair stylists, and teachers
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal fluctuations found in pregnancy, puberty, menopause and the use of birth control
  • Postmenopausal hormonal replacement
  • Predisposition to blood clots
  • Excessive pressure in the abdomen area, which can result from tumors, constipation, and extremely tight clothing or work gear
  • Trauma to the skin
  • Vein surgery
  • Ultraviolet ray exposure

Spider Vein Treatments & Varicose Vein Treatments

Thanks to medical and technology enhancements, venous insufficiency is no longer treated with surgery. Regardless of varicose veins vs spider veins, our team at Northern Illinois Vein Clinic provide minimally invasive treatments that ensure quick recoveries and effective results. Here are our three methods for treating vein issues.

  • Ultrasound Vein Mapping: In this procedure, we use our state-of-the-art ultrasound technology to get the most accurate mapping of your veins. In turn, we are able to develop the most relevant treatment plan.
  • Endovenous Laser Ablation: This treatment applies light energy to vein walls until the varicose vein is absorbed by the body.
  • Sclerotherapy: When a venous disorder is not apparent, we use this treatment to alleviate spider veins. It consists of small liquid injections called sclerosants that eliminate the issue.

Scheduling an appointment to treat your veins is a must, but you probably want to know what to do to appease the discomfort up until your procedure takes place. To alleviate leg pain, it is suggested that you elevate your legs or wear support hose, which apply pressure to the area.

Vein Treatment in Rockford, IL

If you haven’t yet made an appointment at Northern Illinois Vein Clinic, don’t wait any longer. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff is ready to help you find relief from any vein insufficiencies you are suffering from. We pride ourselves in providing the best treatments for spider veins and varicose veins in Illinois. Schedule your appointment today to find out more.