Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Spider and Varicose Veins Slideshow Pictures

Varicose veins and spider veins facts

  • Veins carry blood low in oxygen content from the body to the lungs and heart.
  • Varicose veins can lead to aching or even ulceration of the legs.
  • Varicose veins can be caused be weakened valves in the veins or weakened walls of the veins, or by inflammation in the veins (phlebitis).
  • Varicose veins and spider veins are not dangerous (with rare exceptions).
  • Interventions and treatments such as surgery, "ablation" by laser, radiofrequency or other technology is necessary in settings where veins cause significant symptoms that do not respond to non-interventional treatment.
  • Treatments available for venous disease include surgery and sclerotherapy, among other techniques.

What are veins and what is their function?

Veins are blood vessels that return blood from all the organs in the body toward the heart. When the different organs use oxygen from the blood to perform their functions, they release the used blood containing waste products (such as carbon dioxide) into the veins. Blood in the veins is then transported to the heart and returned to the lungs, where the waste carbon dioxide is released and more oxygen is loaded by the blood and taken back to the rest of the body by the arteries.

Veins also act as a storage for unused blood. When the body is at rest, only a portion of the available blood in the body circulates. The rest of the blood remains inactive in the veins and enters the active circulation when the body becomes more active and needs the additional blood to carry oxygen to the entire body. This storing capacity is due to the elasticity (flexibility to expand) of the walls of the veins.

Veins have different sizes that depends their location and function. The largest veins are in the center of the body; these collect the blood from all the other smaller veins and channel it into the heart. The branches of these large veins get smaller and smaller as they move away from the center of the body. The veins closer to the skin surface are called superficial veins. The veins that are deeper and closer to the center of the body are called deep veins. There are also other veins that connect the superficial veins to the deep veins, and these are called perforating veins.

Related SlideshowSpider And Varicose Veins

What are varicose veins and spider veins?

Veins can bulge with pools of blood when they fail to circulate the blood properly. These visible and bulging veins, called varicose veins, are more common in the legs and thighs, but can develop anywhere in the body.

Large varicose veins can be visible, bulging, palpable (can be felt by touching), long, and dilated (greater than 4 millimeters in diameter).

Small "spider veins" also can appear on the skin's surface. These may look like short, fine lines, "starburst" clusters, or a web-like maze. They are typically not palpable. Spider veins are most common in the thighs, ankles, and feet. They may also appear on the face. The medical term for spider veins is telangiectasias.

Varicose vein and spider vein pictures

Picture of Varicose Veins
Picture of Varicose Veins During Injection of Sclerosant

Picture of Spider Veins
Picture of Spider Veins
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Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/15/2014
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