February 24

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Can Spider Veins Turn into Varicose Veins?

By Dr. Jose Almeida

February 24, 2020


Spider veins do not cause varicose veins, as they are smaller veins that are found on the skin surface and varicose veins are larger and deeper in the leg. Spider veins may be a precursor to the development of varicose veins, as venous disease is genetic and usually worsens over time. This means if your parents or siblings have vein disease, that you are more likely to develop vein disease.

"Having spider veins does not mean you will develop varicose veins and in and of themselves, they do not cause varicose veins. Some people may be affected by spider veins and never be affected by varicose veins." - Dr. Almeida 

Varicose Veins can lead to Spider Veins

On the other hand, varicose veins can lead to spider veins. This is due to the progressive nature of venous disease, worsening with time. As blood continually pools, this increases the pressure within the venous system and some of the pressure and pooling of blood will back up into the smaller veins in the legs, thus causing spider veins

spider veins on leg

Spider Veins

spider veins vs varicose veins

Varicose Veins

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Difference between Spider Veins & Varicose Veins

Spider veins and varicose veins are known to be unsightly veins, usually seen in the legs. Varicose veins and spider veins are not synonymous and are in fact different types of veins.

About varicose veins and how they form

Varicose veins are larger veins that are found deeper in the legs and in particular the calf. The most common vein affected is the saphenous vein. Varicose veins occur as the valves no longer function properly, preventing flow of blood to the heart, pooling of blood in the veins, and overstretching of the vein wall with inability of the valve to close completely. This process creates bulging, tortuous veins that are visible on the skin surface and can cause significant pain and swelling in the legs.

With blood pooling in the veins, certain proteins leak out of the vein and are in the surrounding skin tissue, which can prevent appropriate skin healing. Even a small cut or scrape to the leg can create an ulcer, which can be difficult to heal. 

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About spider veins and how they form

Spider veins are much smaller veins that are located in the skin and provide direct blood supply to the skin. As spider veins are small veins, they don’t bulge on the skin, but only appear as a discoloration. Spider veins are typically not painful and are only seen as a cosmetic issue or a concern for worsening of venous disease due to their presence.

How Venous Disease can Affect both Spider Veins and Varicose Veins

Venous disease can involve both varicose veins and spider veins. Some people may be affected by both types of veins, while others may only ever have one or the other. Even though these veins can be unsightly and painful, in the case of varicose veins, both can be successfully treated with office based procedures. There is no specific medical treatment or pill that will cure venous disease, but at least there are options to treat pain and their appearance, including sclerotherapy, endovenous vein ablation and other vein treatments

Dr. Jose Almeida

About the author

Dr. Jose Almeida, MD, FACS, RPVI, RVT is a veteran academic vascular surgeon who practices Endovascular Venous Surgery in Miami, FL. He is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Surgery in both Vascular Surgery and General Surgery.

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