Varicose Veins & Spider Veins

Varicose veins and spider veins

There are certain similarities between varicose veins and spider veins, such as the most common locations. However, they differ in their seriousness and in the recommended treatments. We can help identify any unsightly or problematic veins and recommend the best ways to deal with any issues they may be causing you.

How are varicose veins different?

Varicose veins are the more serious of the two conditions. Their appearance is more pronounced: they are enlarged, twisted or bulging veins caused by leaky valves. Varicose veins are more likely to lead to advanced venous reflux disease, which can be recognised by symptoms including ulcers, and discoloration or thickening of the skin. If you have varicose veins as opposed to spider veins, you’re more likely to suffer from pain, swelling, uncomfortable itchiness and a feeling of heaviness in your legs. While spider veins can be left (and may fade over time), varicose veins may well require surgical intervention such as radiofrequency ablation or microphlebectomy. You can learn more about the specialist varicose vein treatments we offer here.

What are spider veins?

Spider veins take their name from the fact that they are “spidery” or resemble cobwebs. In other words, they are very fine and appear as red or blue lines visible beneath the skin. Unlike with varicose veins, people who have spider veins probably won’t experience pain, swelling or other symptoms of venous reflux disease.

What causes spider veins?

Often, the causes of spider veins and varicose veins are similar. Pregnant women and elderly people are more likely to have spider veins on their legs. One known cause is changes in hormone levels, which is why pregnant women are particularly susceptible. Trauma to the legs can cause spider veins, and genetics are also believed to make some people predisposed to developing spider veins. Being overweight can also be a risk factor. Again, unlike varicose veins, spider veins tend to be a purely cosmetic issue with no real health consequences. However, their appearance and the fact that they are due to blood pooling in veins, means that many people do seek treatment for them. Effective treatments are available for anyone who is self-conscious about spider veins, or who experiences pain or discomfort.

Can spider veins be prevented?

Yes, there are several effective methods to reducing the appearance of spider veins that you can follow yourself. In general, being more active is the best advice we can give anyone who is concerned about spider veins. The more you move about, the less opportunity blood has to pool in your veins. In addition, regular exercise can assist with weight management, further reducing the risk of spider veins. Avoiding sitting or standing still for a long time can also help, as can keeping your legs elevated when you sit. You may also want to invest in elastic compression stockings, which apply pressure in ways that help keep your blood moving.

What is the best treatment for spider veins?

We specialise in sclerotherapy, a non-surgical treatment option for spider veins. It simply involves injecting a solution into the vein, which ultimately leads to the walls of the spider veins collapsing and sticking together. Over time, they convert to scar tissue and fade from view. We’d recommend that you avoid shaving your legs or using any lotion for at least 24 hours before the procedure, although you can resume with both of these from the next day.   For more information on treatment options for varicose veins, or to arrange a consultation, contact Dr Francois Steyn on 012 993 4161 or 012 993 0911, or at