Varicose veins vs. spider veins: what’s the difference?
Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that often appear on the legs. They may be blue or dark purple and are often lumpy or bulging. Varicose veins occur when the valves in the veins that normally keep blood flowing in one direction fail. This causes blood to pool in the veins, leading to their enlargement.
Spider veins are much smaller than varicose veins and usually appear as a web of thin red or blue lines on the skin’s surface. They are often found on the thighs, ankles, and feet. Spider veins are less serious than varicose veins and do not always require treatment. However, spider veins can also be caused by underlying vein disease, so diagnosis is necessary.
The main difference between varicose veins and spider veins is their size. Varicose veins are much larger than spider veins and can cause more serious symptoms. Spider veins are smaller and thinner. But regardless of the physical differences between varicose and spider veins, you must consult a board-certified vein doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Long Island Vein Center is a group of state-of-the-art vein centers specializing in minimally invasive spider vein and varicose vein treatments. Our vein centers are led by board-certified vein doctors who can diagnose the root cause of your vein problems and curate a personalized vein treatment plan to remove varicose veins and spider veins.
You can find our vein centers in West Islip, Jericho, and Hampton Bays. Our vein center in the Hamptons is at 225 W Montauk Highway, Suite #3, a short drive from South Hampton, Water Mill, and East Hampton. If you have spider veins, varicose veins, or other signs and symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, please visit our vein doctors in Long Island.
Chronic venous insufficiency: the main cause of varicose veins and spider veins
When you stand, gravity pulls blood down into your leg veins. Veins have one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backward. The valves open as blood flows to your heart and then close to prevent blood from falling back down into your legs.
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition that happens when your veins can’t send blood back up to your heart the way they should. This can happen when the valves in your veins are damaged or when the walls of your veins are too weak. When blood can’t flow properly, it can pool in your veins and cause them to get larger. This is called venous reflux.
CVI is the most common cause of varicose veins and spider veins. It can happen to anyone, but it’s more common in women and in people over the age of 50. CVI is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time. The continued accumulation of blood in leg veins can lead to spider veins, varicose veins, leg heaviness, restless legs, leg cramps, and more.
Risk factors for developing varicose veins:
- Age: As you age, your veins lose elasticity and become less able to close properly, which can lead to blood pooling.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy can cause an increase in the amount of blood in your body, as well as an increase in the pressure on your veins. This can cause varicose veins to form, particularly in the legs and feet.
- Obesity: Obesity puts extra pressure on your veins and can cause them to become enlarged.
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time: If you stand or sit for long periods, your muscles cannot pump the blood in your veins as effectively. This can cause the blood to pool and the veins to become enlarged.
- Family history: If you have a family member with varicose veins, you may be more likely to develop them yourself.
- Hormonal changes: Certain hormonal changes, such as those that occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, can cause varicose veins.
- Birth control Pills: Taking birth control pills can increase your risk for varicose veins.
- Blood clots: If you have had a blood clot in the past, you may be more likely to develop varicose veins.
How do you avoid varicose veins?
Several things can contribute to the development of varicose veins, including genetics, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. While you may not be able to change some of these risk factors, you can take steps to help prevent varicose veins from developing or worsening.
- Wearing compression stockings is one of the most effective ways to prevent or manage varicose veins. Compression stockings help to promote circulation by applying gentle pressure to the legs. This pressure helps to keep blood from pooling in the veins.
- Exercising regularly is another great way to prevent varicose veins. Exercise helps to promote circulation and can also help to prevent obesity, which is another risk factor for the condition.
- Maintaining a healthy weight is also important in preventing varicose veins. If you are overweight, losing even a few pounds can help to reduce the pressure on your veins and lower your risk of developing the condition.
- Avoiding prolonged periods of standing or sitting can also help to prevent varicose veins. If you must stand for long periods of time, take breaks often and elevate your feet when possible. And when sitting, try to avoid crossing your legs, which can further contribute to poor circulation.
What happens if you don’t remove varicose veins?
If you don’t remove varicose veins, they will progressively get worse. Over time, the valves in your veins will become damaged and unable to properly pump blood back to your heart. This can cause blood to pool in your veins, making them larger and more visible. Additionally, the pooling of blood can cause inflammation and pain. If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to serious health complications, such as blood clots, ulcers, and skin infections.