Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

Varicose Veins and Spider Veins: Unsightly But Treatable

What causes this?

Varicose Veins and Spider Veins are part of the same spectrum of problems caused by blood pressure in the superficial veins of the legs. Spider veins (aka Thread veins) can also appear on the face.  People with varicose veins are more likely to have spider veins too, but the reverse isn’t true.  Having spider veins doesn’t predispose people to varicose veins.

Varicose veins and spider veins affect both men and women, but due to several hormonal changes throughout a women’s life, women are more prone to both vein conditions. There may also be a genetic component for the tendency to develop varicose and spider veins also.

Spider veins are much more common in women than in men.  Nearly 20% of women in their 20s have will have them, rising to nearly 50% by the age of 40 and over 70% by the age of 70.Jobs that involve prolonged standing may aggravate the condition, but they don’t actually cause it.  Although the cause is unknown, spider veins tend to develop as we age and our skin and blood vessels become less elastic. Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and the menopause are thought to provoke their development, as is too much sunbathing, exposure to wind or extreme temperatures, corticosteroid medicines and radiotherapy. Genetics may also play a role given a family tendency to the problem.

“Smaller spider veins are easy to treat.  Later on they can be more difficult to eradicate. Younger women could save themselves a great deal of time and trouble if they opted for early treatment.”
– Dr. Zoe Filyk


Spider veins are usually fine and superficial and varicose veins are usually large and protruding. Spider veins measure less than one millimeter in diameter and, unless clustered together, are typically less easily seen than varicose veins.

Spider veins look like fine red, or sometimes purple, wiggly lines. They are harmless and painless however sun exposure may cause them to become irritated and itchy.  Facial spider veins, in particular, are very noticeable – causing people to feel self conscious and less attractive when they appear.  They are not dangerous but they tend to become larger and increase in number over time. On the legs, spider veins appear as reddish, purplish wisps – often resembling a bruise when they occur in clusters. spider veins generally do not cause pain, although some women say they do experience discomfort from them related to menstruation. The pain can occur as a result of the cycling levels of estrogen and progesterone during the typical menstrual cycle.  As we age, most of us will adquire some varicose or spider (thread) veins.

Varicose veins measure at least four to five millimeters in diameter and can be painful at times. Varicose veins are bluer in color and tend to protrude above the level of the skin. They are usually soft and spongy unless they have clotted off at which point they may be hard and tender to the touch.

Treatment Options

People with larger varicose veins should not seek treatment for spider veins until the varicose veins have been treated.  There are several options that can dramatically improve the appearance of unsightly veins:

  • Laser therapy
  • Sclerotherapy
  • A combination of both.

Laser therapy uses brief pulses of laser light to destroy smaller blood vessels. Different types of laser are used for thin red veins which are close to the skin’s surface and deeper blue or purple veins which need a laser with a longer wavelength to reach them.  Veins bigger than 4mm in diameter require sclerotherapy.

Laser can treat the very fine veins that can appear on the nose, cheeks and chin and it’s usually very successful. Often spider veins on the face are part of a condition called rosacea and additionally medication may be needed to control the problem.

Laser vein removal is a simple, fast and safe treatment to remove facial spider veins. This treatment is also effective for spider veins which appear on the legs and for deeper blue leg veins.


Spider Veins can be effectively treated with the following procedures: