Spider Veins, Varicose Veins and Feeder Veins: What’s the Difference?

May 6, 2022
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May 6, 2022 The Vein Institute

As spider, feeder, and varicose veins can range in severity from being unpleasant to look at to becoming outright dangerous, it’s important to know the distinction to make informed choices about potential treatments. 

So, here’s our guide to help you do just that. 

What do they look like?

Varicose veins look like dark blue or purple cords and often appear on the legs. As they provide blood for your muscles, they are big, starting at 2.5mm in diameter. Although these are deep veins, their size causes them to protrude above the skin surface. 

Spider veins, meanwhile, closely resemble spider webs (thus the name). As with varicose veins, you’ll usually find spider veins on the legs, but they can also appear on the torso and face. They are only 1-1.5 mm in diameter, can be red, blue, or purple, and while they appear close to the skin surface, they don’t protrude above it. 

Feeder veins (also known as reticular veins) are typically greenish or blue, 1-3 mm in diameter, and are flatter than varicose veins. Feeder veins may sometimes protrude above the skin surface, but they’re usually not visible to the naked eye. These veins ‘feed’ spider veins, so they’ll appear near spider vein clusters. 

What are the symptoms?

Each of these vein conditions has a chance of causing you little to no discomfort. In most cases, spider veins will only be an aesthetic issue. Varicose veins and feeder veins, however, will usually result in itching, burning, or even outright pain. Varicose veins can also develop into a dangerous condition called deep vein thrombosis, in which a blood clot forms and may prove deadly if it travels to the heart. 

What are the treatment options? 

You can sometimes minimise the appearance and discomfort of these conditions without medical intervention. Compression socks, not staying static for long periods (especially standing), getting more exercise, and switching to a healthier diet are all good ways to do so.

But, if you’re experiencing significant discomfort or are just after a more immediate solution, there are a few non-surgical treatment options. These include: 

  • Sclerotherapy to treat small varicose veins and spider veins
  • A combination of sclerotherapy and endovenous laser ablation to treat spider veins with adjoining feeder veins or larger varicose veins
  • And medical superglue or radiofrequency ablation and endovenous laser ablation to treat large varicose veins. 

You can learn more about our treatment options here.

If you think you have any of these conditions or are worried about your general vein health, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us