What’s the difference between varicose veins and spider veins?

Varicose Veins have a prominent, knobby, rope-like appearance on the lower legs and usually appear above the skins surface. These dark bluish or purple veins are caused when the valves in the veins become worn and stop working properly to regulate the blood flow to and from the heart, causing it to pool in the legs. This can be painful, and they can lead to other health problems like venous eczema, skin ulcerations, blood clots, and though rare, skin cancers.

Spider Veins are more superficial blood vessels that appear as tiny, light blue or red lines in a web-like formation on the legs or face. They are not caused by crossing your legs or taking vitamin supplements and are rarely painful. Harmful ultraviolet light from excessive sun exposure can cause thinning and spreading of spider veins because it breaks down the collagen in the walls of the veins.

Risk Factors
Women are more prone than men to develop spider and varicose veins, perhaps because of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, puberty, menstruation and menopause. Heredity increases the likelihood of developing varicose veins by 80%. Opinions vary on whether or not obesity causes varicose veins. This difference may be in that the added pressure of the weight on the lower legs makes one more susceptible to developing varicose veins; while a large weight loss can cause spider veins to collapse, making them more visible.

Prevention and care
Preventive care includes varying your position frequently, which means neither standing nor sitting for long periods. Because varicose veins need the muscular stimulation that forces them to work against gravity in order to regulate the blood flow to the heart, frequent breaks and daily exercise are important in keeping the valves in the veins of the legs conditioned.

Self-care such as wearing compression stockings, elevating your feet and daily exercise can ease the symptoms. However, you should consult your doctor if they worsen or you are concerned about how they look.

Medical care is needed when signs occur like worsening pain, swelling in your legs, skin ulcers form near the ankle, or itching around the vein. The pain sensations may feel like burning, muscle cramping, throbbing, or an achy, heavy sensation in your lower legs. Skin ulcers around the ankles may indicate the presence of a more serious form of vascular disease that requires medical attention. Treatments vary depending on the type of varicose veins. They include sclerotherapthy, surgery, laser, and radio-frequency therapy.