Spider Veins

Image of a leg with a spider vein pattern

Spider veins are web-like veins on the surface of the skin. They range in color from blue to deep purple to red. Unlike varicose veins, which are relatively large, spider veins are thin and wispy. While both varicose veins and spider veins most commonly occur in the legs, spider veins can occur almost anywhere on the body, while varicose veins are found almost always on the legs. Another way to distinguish between a spider vein and a varicose vein? Spider veins don’t protrude from the skin like varicose veins.
Varicose Vein Anatomy: Difference between normal and varicose veins

As a result of venous insufficiency, an otherwise healthy vein turns into a varicose vein.

What Causes Spider Veins?

Like varicose veins, spider veins are the result of growing pressure in the affected veins. The pooling of blood causes a breakdown of valves within the veins themselves. A healthy vein contains small pieces of tissue called valves scattered along their length. Ideally, when the muscles of the legs squeeze blood within the leg veins, the blood can only move in one direction because the valves prevent the backflow of blood. Varicose veins form when the valves stop working.

Beyond that, the cause of spider veins is a matter of debate.1 Risk factors for spider veins include increasing age, obesity, and genetics. Impressively, 90% of people with spider veins have at least one family member who also has spider veins.2 Occupation is also a risk factor-professions that involve a lot of standing, like teaching or nursing, are associated with an increased risk of spider veins. Lastly, sun exposure is a risk factor for spider veins on the face, especially for those with fair skin.

Are Spider Veins Dangerous?

Spider veins are considered a cosmetic problem and are therefore not regarded as dangerous.  Spider veins often occur with varicose veins. Varicose veins can be a sign of severe venous disease and may lead to uncomfortable symptoms.

Can I Prevent Spider Veins?

Compression stocking for varicose and spider veins

If someone in your family has spider veins, you will likely develop them at some point in your life. You may be able to reduce the risk or appearance of spider veins by reducing or eliminating modifiable risk factors. In other words, if you are overweight, losing weight might reduce your risk of spider veins. Avoiding the sun or using sunblock may prevent facial spider veins. If you work in a profession that requires a lot of standing (and you don’t want to change professions), you might consider compression stockings. Compression stockings can help prevent blood from pooling in leg veins, which can lead to venous insufficiency, varicose veins, and spider veins.

When to Seek Treatment from a Vein Specialist

You should seek an appointment with a vein specialist if you are unhappy or embarrassed by the look of your spider veins. They are unsightly but not dangerous. You may also consider seeking the help of a vein specialist if you are worried about other forms of vein disease that also occur in people with spider veins.

Remember, spider vein treatment is an elective procedure performed for cosmetic reasons, so a vein specialist will not be able to bill your insurance company. In other words, you will have to pay out-of-pocket. Nevertheless, spider vein treatment costs are quite reasonable and can make a dramatic improvement in one’s appearance and quality of life.

If you have spider veins, seeing a local vein specialist is typically your best option. Your vein specialist can help you correctly identify your vein issues and schedule treatment to remove your spider veins.


  1. Mujadzic M, Ritter EF, Given KS. A Novel Approach for the Treatment of Spider Veins. Aesthet Surg J. Sep 2015;35(7): NP221-229. doi:10.1093/asj/sjv004
  2. Bernstein EF. Clinical characteristics of 500 consecutive patients presenting for laser removal of lower extremity spider veins. Dermatol Surg. Jan 2001;27(1):31-33.

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