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What are spider veins?

What are spider veins?

October 4, 2023

What are spider veins?

Spider veins, also known as thread veins, are a common vascular condition characterised by the appearance of small, dilated blood vessels just beneath the surface of the skin. 

Spider veins are usually thin, web-like clusters of red, blue, or purple lines, often resembling spider webs or tree branches. While spider veins are generally not a serious medical concern, they can be seen as unattractive for some, and in rarer cases could indicate underlying circulatory issues. 

What are spider veins?

Spider veins are also known as thread veins, a type of superficial blood vessel that becomes visible through the skin due to dilation. These veins can appear anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on the legs and face. They usually measure between 0.5 and 1 millimetre in diameter and are often seen in clusters, giving them their characteristic spider web-like or branching appearance.

What causes spider veins?

Veins have a vital role in transporting blood back to the heart to make sure blood is circulating correctly through the body. Within veins, there is a one-way valve designed to shut after blood has travelled through to make sure the blood only travels in the correct direction, however if this valve becomes damaged in any way (through weakening over time or injury), it can affect the blood's ability to flow in the right direction, leading to a build up within the vein. This accumulation over time can cause noticeable dilation in the vein, and the bulging is then referred to as spider veins.

On the face, spider veins frequently emerge as a result of tiny blood vessels rupturing. Elevated pressure or damage from sun exposure can trigger thread veins to appear on the face, or places on the body where the skin is much thinner. 

There are several factors that contribute to the weakening of the valves within veins which then causes the development of spider veins. Understanding these causes can help you take preventive measures and make your own decision about treatment:


Family history plays a significant role in the likelihood of developing spider veins. If your parents or grandparents had spider veins, you may have a higher chance of developing them.


Spider veins affect both men and women, but women are more prone to develop them. This is often due to hormonal changes which can weaken vein walls and valves.


As we age, our veins naturally lose their elasticity and may become more visible through the skin. This is why spider veins tend to be more common in older people.

Sun Exposure

Excessive sun exposure, particularly on the face, can contribute to the development of spider veins. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage blood vessels and weaken the skin's elasticity meaning someone with higher than usual sun exposure is more prone to developing thread veins.

Prolonged Standing or Sitting

Jobs or other activities that involve long periods of standing or sitting can increase the risk of spider veins developing on your body. When the legs are stationary for extended periods, blood can pool in the veins, leading to dilation and the formation of spider veins.


Excess body weight places added pressure on the veins, making them more susceptible to damage and the development of spider veins.

Spider veins vs varicose veins

Spider veins and varicose veins are both variations of a medical condition known as venous insufficiency. In both cases, the cause is down to damaged valves within the veins, however the two conditions have different symptoms and treatments.

Spider veins and varicose veins are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct conditions with some key differences:

Spider Veins

Spider veins are smaller, thin veins located near the skin's surface that are typically red, blue, or purple in colour and may appear as a network or clusters of fine lines. Spider veins are not generally painful for most people, but can cause itching, burning, or discomfort for some.

They are rarely associated with serious health issues but may indicate underlying venous insufficiency.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are larger, swollen veins that often protrude from the skin's surface, appearing as bulging, twisted cords that are usually blue or dark purple in colour and can cause pain, throbbing, or aching. Varicose veins are often associated with venous insufficiency, a condition where blood flows backwards and pools in the veins, potentially leading to more severe complications.

While both spider veins and varicose veins may be treated for cosmetic reasons, varicose veins are more likely to cause discomfort and health concerns, making medical intervention more common.

Treatment for spider veins

Although generally harmless, spider veins have the potential to cause some discomfort, however, many people wish to treat or remove them for cosmetic reasons. Treatment options for spider veins vary depending on the severity of the condition and individual preferences. 

Micro Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure where a special solution is injected directly into the affected veins. This solution causes the veins to collapse and eventually fade away, making it an effective treatment for smaller spider veins.

Veinwave Therapy (Thermocoagulation)

Veinwave is a type of thermocoagulation treatment, which is a relatively new treatment that uses microwave energy to heat and close off spider veins. It is often used for tiny facial veins and offers minimal discomfort and quick recovery.

Compression Stockings

Compression stockings apply gentle pressure to the legs, promoting better blood flow and reducing the discomfort associated with spider veins. They are a less-effective treatment option and can be used to manage mild cases.

How to prevent spider veins

While it may not always be possible to prevent spider veins, especially if thread veins run in your family, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of new spider veins from developing and improving your overall vascular health. 

Staying Active

Regular physical activity helps maintain healthy blood circulation. Simple activities like walking, swimming, or cycling can improve venous blood flow in the legs and can reduce the chances of new spider veins from developing.

Keeping Legs Elevated When Possible

If your job or lifestyle involves prolonged periods of sitting or standing, take breaks every 30 minutes to elevate your legs and encourage blood to flow back to your heart.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can reduce the risk of spider veins developing as excess body weight places additional strain on your veins, which could cause them to become weakened over time.

Protecting Your Skin from Sun

To prevent spider veins on your face, use sunscreen with a high SPF and wear protective clothing when you are exposed to the sun for extended periods of time.

Consult a Vascular Specialist at Dr Newmans Clinic

If you have a family history of spider veins or are concerned about their development, consult a vascular specialist here at Dr Newmans Clinic. We can provide guidance on preventive measures and treatment options tailored to your specific condition. 

Spider veins are generally not a serious health threat, but those who suffer with them have the option to treat them if they find them an inconvenience or they affect their confidence. Understanding the causes, differences between spider and varicose veins, available treatments, and prevention strategies can allow you to make informed decisions about managing spider veins and the most suitable ways to treat them.

If you are experiencing discomfort or have concerns about your spider veins, get in touch with us for guidance on the most appropriate course of action.

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