There is a distinct difference between spider veins and varicose veins. Spider veins are tiny red capillaries that sit close to the surface of the skin, making them readily visible. Varicose veins are larger blood vessels that have become dilated due to a weakened vessel wall. They typically present as swollen, gnarled veins that are purple or bluish in color.
While spider veins are unsightly, they are usually not a serious health risk. However, there are circumstances that can evolve with varicose veins, which demand medical treatment.
The constriction of blood vessels and veins affects circulation to the involved limb that can create concerning health risks.
Spider veins present a cosmetic concern and rarely cause any alarming health problem. The major physical complaints are the unsightly web of fine lines (veins) on the surface of the skin and, possibly, burning and itching at the site.
Varicose veins can progress to more serious symptoms and health concerns, especially in the legs. Some of the symptoms and signs stemming from varicose veins include:
- Aching and a feeling of heaviness in the affected limbs
- Inability to stand or walk for a long period of time
- Skin ulcers
- Bleeding at the site from a minor injury
- Superficial thrombophlebitis or blood clot in the vein
- Skin discoloration around the area
- Deep vein thrombosis
When to Seek Treatment
The health risks associated with varicose veins are threefold: skin ulcers, uncontrolled bleeding and deep vein thrombosis.
1. Skin Ulcers
Skin ulcers associated with a varicose vein are skin wounds that don't heal due to the poor circulation to the area. The skin over a varicosity is thin and vulnerable. Medical treatment is necessary to avoid infection and other problems.
2. Uncontrolled Bleeding
The skin over a varicose vein is vulnerable to even minor trauma. Just a bump to the affected area can cause significant bleeding. Medical attention to the area is warranted to stop the bleeding and prevent infection.
3. Deep Vein Thrombosis
Though concerning, superficial thrombophlebitis often resolves with elevation of the limb and heat to the area. Deep vein thrombosis, involving a blood clot in a deep vein, is a serious health problem necessitating immediate medical care. The early sign of deep vein thrombosis is when the affected limb suddenly swells and becomes painful. Emergency care is needed to treat a potential clot and prevent it from breaking away and traveling to the lungs or brain, which could be debilitating or fatal.