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Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins – Recognizing the Difference

Spider veins and varicose veins are similar in that both are cosmetic issues that prevent a person from looking their best and make them feel poorly about their appearance. But there important differences between the two conditions that you should be aware of.

Varicose veins and spider veins are very different in appearance

Varicose veins are large, usually 4 to 5 millimeters in diameter, and tend to protrude above the surface of the skin. They are blue in color, taking their coloration from the deoxygenated blood that has pooled in them. They are usually soft and spongy to the touch. Varicose veins are often accompanied by unpleasant symptoms such as swelling, pain, chronic weakness or tiredness, skin changes, and ulceration.

Spider veins tend to be smaller, usually less than 1 millimeter in diameter, so unless they are clustered together, they are less easily seen than varicose veins. They are red or purple in color and appear on the legs, neck, behind the knee, and in other areas of the body in web-like clusters (thus the name) or in “nests” that resemble a bruise.

Spider veins and varicose veins are part of a spectrum of vein disease

Both conditions are caused by “backflow” known as reflux medically which means that blood is reversed in these vessels instead of flowing to the heart and lungs as it should. Spider veins usually don’t cause the pain and symptoms associated with varicose veins, so treatment of them is often considered cosmetic. However, symptoms can occur from spider veins, especially if they appear in the same location as varicose veins. In some cases, proper treatment of larger varicose veins must also include treatment of nearby spider veins, because a single medical pathology is creating both conditions.

Fortunately, both varicose veins and spider veins can be easily treated

Both conditions can be eliminated through ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, endovenous laser or radiofrequency ablation, or the use of newer techniques such as Venaseal™ “medical super glue.” All of these procedures are minimally invasive and are performed on an outpatient basis in the comfort one of our offices. They require less than 30 minutes time and involve no time away from work or “recovery time,” because the treatments are so gentle there’s nothing to recover from.

At The Vein Institute, we can perform a detailed assessment of your legs and provide advice on the best pathway to treatment.

So if you have noticed either spider veins or varicose veins, have them checked at The Vein Institute. Just give us a call at our offices at 1300 535 017 to set up an appointment for a personalised assessment.



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The Vein Institute,

227 Elizabeth street, ground floor, Corner of Elizabeth and Bathurst street, Sydney, NSW, 2000


Varicose veins are leg veins which do not pump blood effectively back to the heart and can be often seen as bulging veins just underneath your skin on either leg. These varicose veins have valves in them which are not working effectively so that blood which is meant to be pushed towards the heart, leaks downwards toward the legs. There are other leg veins which are still working, so blood does eventually arrive through other routes to your heart. However, varicose veins do exert added pressure on your circulatory system. Read More.

Endovenous Laser Ablation is a Varicose Veins Laser Treatment performed in our clinic under local anaesthetic. This new procedure is an excellent treatment option for most patients with varicose veins and is considered slightly more effective than surgery but without the need for hospitalization. Read More.

This is an endovenous treatment (meaning treating the vein on the inside). It is generally accepted to be associated with less pain and bruising than endovenous laser ablation. It is a “gold standard” form of treatment for large varicose leg veins treatment as the procedure requires no hospitalization or time of work yet is at least as effective as surgery. Read More.

Venaseal™ or ‘superglue’ treatment by Sapheon is the latest surgery free procedure that uses a medical adhesive to safely and effectively treat varicose veins. Unlike other treatments, Venaseal™ does not require tumescent local anaesthetic around the vein, so there is usually only one local anaesthetic injection. The Venaseal™ non surgical treatment procedure also eliminates the use of heat (or thermal energy) so there is virtually no risk of nerve or skin injury or any major reaction to the anaesthetic. Read More.

Ultrasound Guided Foam Sclerotherapy allows our doctors to visually guide and monitor a needle to the exact source of the incompetent vein (valve) to be injected. By using ultrasound we can treat more quickly and safely larger and deeper veins that once required more invasive surgical treatment. Foam sclerotherapy is the new form of delivering the sclerosing agent that allows us to treat larger varicose veins that might be unsuccessfully treated with conventional sclerotherapy. The foam solution has the consistency of ‘shaving cream’, which improves treatment in two distinct ways. Read More.

1300 535 017
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1300 535 017
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