Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins – Recognising the Difference

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March 27, 2021 The Vein Institute

While spider veins and varicose veins have some similarities, they also have some distinct differences. To help you identify which type of vein you might have, here’s everything on spider veins vs varicose veins – recognising the difference.


Varicose Veins


4-5 mm in diameter

Protrude above the surface of the skin

Blue in colour

Soft and spongy to touch

Found on legs



Chronic weakness in legs

Skin changes

Ulceration (in severe cases)

Spider Veins


1mm in diameter

Less easily seen

Red or purple in colour

Flat to touch

Found on legs, neck, face

No physical symptoms aside from appearance

What are the Differences?

Varicose veins are large, usually 4 to 5 millimetres in diameter, and tend to protrude above the surface of the skin. They are blue in colour, taking their colouration 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. Due to these symptoms, they are classified as a medical issue.

Spider veins tend to be smaller, usually less than 1 millimetre in diameter and usually are more difficult to see than varicose veins. They are red or purple in colour and appear on the legs, neck, behind the knee, among other areas. They tend to be in web-like clusters (thus the name) or in “nests” that resemble a bruise. As they have no symptoms aside from their appearance, they are considered a cosmetic issue.

What Actually Happens?

Both conditions are caused by “backflow” or reflux in medical terms. This means that the blood that should be flowing to the heart and lungs, is reversed and pools in the vein. Spider veins are considered a cosmetic issue as they don’t have the symptoms that are associated with varicose veins. 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

There are various treatments that can eliminate both varicose veins and spider veins. At The Vein Institute, we focus on treating medical cases of varicose veins. Sclerotherapyendovenous laser ablation, Venaseal™ “medical super glue” are all effective treatments to do this. The doctors will perform the minimally invasive procedures in the comfort of one of our offices on an outpatient basis. The procedure will only take about an hour and involve no time away from work or “recovery time”.

At The Vein Institute, we will carry out a detailed assessment of your legs and provide a tailored treatment plan for you. If varicose veins are something that you are concerned about, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 1300 535 017 or book in a consultation.