Compared to enlarged and bulging varicose veins, spider veins are generally smaller and not as painful. They commonly manifest as the web of red or blue veins that spread below the surface of the skin, becoming more prominent as we age. Like varicose veins, spider veins tend to develop in the legs, but they can also appear on the face, especially around nose or under the eyes.
Spider veins generally pose less risk to your health than varicose veins, causing primarily cosmetic concerns over appearance. Many spider vein patients report no specific symptoms, while some experience a burning sensation or a mild discomfort. This condition may also cause swelling, itching, cramping, or restless legs.
In certain cases, spider veins may trigger skin sores, rashes, or blood clots. You are strongly advised to see a doctor if your spider veins bleed, feel warm to the touch, and cause pain. Although rarely dangerous, spider veins may bring about potential complications such as thrombosis (i.e., a formation of blood clots in the swollen vein) or phlebitis (i.e., an inflammation of the vein caused by a blood clot).
Causes and Risk Factors
Much like varicose veins, spider veins develop as the consequence of damaged and weakened vein valves. As we age, the wear and tear in the valves inhibits proper circulation and, as blood backs up, the veins swell and become discolored.
Spider veins are extremely common among female patients with 50 to 55% of American women experiencing this condition at some point in their lives. As in the case of varicose veins, pregnancy and use of birth control pills, which cause hormonal changes, count among common risk factors for this disorder. Lack of exercise and obesity also tend to put individuals at risk for spider veins. Thus, sedentary lifestyle causes sluggish blood circulation, while weight gain adds greater pressure on the veins in your lower extremities, contributing to the wear and tear on vein valves.