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Varicose Veins Versus Spider Veins: What’s The Difference?

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A woman’s legs resting beside lake

Varicose veins and spider veins may seem like interchangeable terms for the same thing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s the low-down on the causes, symptoms and treatments for both varicose veins and spider veins. Spider veins are the less serious of the two and are seen as small discoloured veins that have a spider-web like appearance typically on the legs. These veins rarely cause problems with pain and can be left untreated. In contrast, varicose veins occur due to faulty values in veins of the legs. Blood is able to therefore flow in the wrong direction causing bulging veins, which appear blue and purple. These veins can cause problems of pain, numbness in the legs and in some cases, leg ulcers.

Who is at risk of developing varicose and spider veins?

Around 80% of those who get varicose veins are women. Also as we age, the risk of developing varicose veins increases. In 30-50% of cases the underlying cause for the bulging veins is a condition known as Chronic Venous Insufficiency or CVI.

People who stand up a lot in their jobs have a higher risk of getting varicose veins due to the extra pressure this places on the lower extremities of the body. Also for the same reason, people who are overweight carry a larger risk of developing varicose and spider veins.

Underlying causes of varicose and spider veins

In general, varicose veins are a result of faulty blood vessels which fail to carry blood back to the heart properly. This leads to the blood flowing backwards in the vein and venous enlargement. Spider veins often develop for the same reason but are exacerbated by obesity, pregnancy, menopause and genetic factors.

Varicose veins are tougher to handle

Varicose veins are typically much more difficult to deal with than spider veins. Varicose vein symptoms range from a feeling of numbness and leg heaviness, to throbbing, tingling, leg aches and cramps and skin ulcers. Whereas spider veins can sometimes cause minor itching and burning, they also may not display any symptoms at all.

Effective treatments

Varicose and spider veins are both unpleasant to look at and can cause discomfort. So it’s good to know that these conditions can easily be treated.

At the Palm Clinic, the expert team treat spider veins using Microsclerotherapy. This is an injection technique that uses ultra-fine needles. In some cases the team will use an Exotherme Laser or IPL. Another option is the Coolglide Excel laser.

For varicose veins, specialists at the Palm Clinic offer the Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) and Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy (UGS). These treatments are simple non-surgical techniques where you can walk in, walk out and get back to work the same day.

As New Zealand’s busiest varicose vein clinic, Palm Clinic has been performing effective venous treatments since 1998. Call us to find out more.

spider veins, varicose veins

Consulatation at Palm Clinic with Dr Sam Dunn

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