Spider and varicose veins are two types of damaged blood vessels. They occur when blood becomes backed up in eroding valves. A spider vein is essentially a milder form of a varicose vein.

Some people use the terms spider veins and varicose veins interchangeably. Though the two share some similarities, they are different.

Varicose veins are typically swollen and raised. Spider veins appear as much smaller and fainter webs of damaged blood cells. They’re commonly found on the legs, though they’re sometimes found on the face or other body parts, too.

While anyone can develop either varicose or spider veins, they become more common with age.

Here’s what else to know about the differences between these two common conditions.

Veins have one-way valves that open and shut and help keep blood pumping to the heart. These walls may sometimes weaken or become damaged. When that happens, blood can pool and bulge in the veins and even flow backward, resulting in varicose veins.

Various factors can cause blood pressure to increase inside the veins, including:

  • pregnancy
  • constipation
  • tumors
  • overweight
  • obesity
  • sitting or standing for long periods
  • a sedentary lifestyle

Spider veins may also be caused by:

  • sun exposure
  • hormonal shifts
  • injuries

You can usually distinguish a spider vein from a varicose vein just by looking at it.

Spider veins typically appear:

  • small and faint
  • flush with the skin
  • reddish
  • in branches or webs

They’re often found on the face or legs and are typically painless.

Meanwhile, varicose veins usually appear to be:

  • deeper
  • bulging
  • larger
  • twisting
  • purplish or blueish

Varicose veins are typically found around the inner thighs, calves, lower pelvic area, or rear (particularly during pregnancy). Unlike spider veins, they can cause pain or discomfort, such as a cramping or aching sensation.

While they’re considered a mild form of varicose veins, spider veins won’t necessarily turn into varicose veins. Smaller, shallower valves turn into spider veins, while deeper veins tend to turn into varicose veins.

However, spider veins may emerge as a result of varicose vein formation. When the varicose veins grow and bulge, they may put pressure on the surrounding superficial veins, causing spider-like “webs.”

Sometimes, spider and varicose veins can be managed with at-home remedies. Even though these methods won’t reverse them, they may prevent the veins from worsening or causing further pain or discomfort.

Remedies include:

  • exercising regularly
  • elevating your legs when sitting or lying down
  • avoiding sitting or standing for long periods
  • wearing compression socks
  • avoiding long, hot baths (try to limit them to 10 minutes or so)

These methods all help boost blood flow circulation in your body, which can help with vein function.

To completely remove the veins, you may need to undergo a minimally invasive treatment. In-office methods for varicose and spider vein removal include:

  • Sclerotherapy: This is the most common treatment. It involves injecting a specialized solution directly into the veins, which seals them shut. Eventually, they’ll die off and disappear. You may need a few treatments to remove the veins completely.
  • Laser therapy: This approach uses heat to break down spider veins and smaller varicose veins on the face or legs. The laser technology will be directed at the veins from outside the skin. The veins will then gradually break down over the next several weeks. As with sclerotherapy, you may need several sessions.
  • Endovenous ablation: This involves making a small cut in your skin andusing either radiofrequency or laser technology to target the veins.
  • Surgery: Large, deep veins may require surgery if they don’t respond to other removal methods.

Spider veins typically don’t require treatment unless you don’t like the way they look. Varicose veins may require treatment if they cause pain or discomfort.

Spider and varicose veins are two types of damaged veins that cause blood to become backed up in the valves. While spider veins are typically a superficial problem, varicose veins may sometimes cause serious pain or discomfort.

There are various options for removing spider and varicose veins. Currently, sclerotherapy is the most popular option, followed by laser treatment.