If you have varicose veins or spider veins, you might worry about how they look, or about possible symptoms you might experience. You might also wonder whether there’s a difference between these two vein issues and about the possible treatments to get rid of your unhealthy veins and give you back the clear skin you once had. Madison Medispa, located in Waunakee, WI, is the best place to treat both types of veins.

What Is the Difference Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?



The most obvious difference between these two types of veins is the way they look. Varicose veins are very enlarged, bulging veins that may appear a deep blue or purple. The smaller veins that look like a spider’s web are aptly named for their appearance. Unlike varicose veins, they are thin, do not bulge, and may be red or blue.


To understand the purpose and function of your veins, you first have to understand a bit about the body’s circulatory system. The lungs infuse your blood with oxygen, and then the heart pumps that blood through the arteries to the muscles and tissues in the body so all of your cells gets what they need. Once the oxygen has been distributed, the veins work to get the blood cells back to the heart and lungs so the process can be repeated.

Unlike the arteries, which have thin walls of muscle that aid the heart in moving the blood forward, your veins depend on the surrounding muscles, especially those in your calf, to return the blood against the force of gravity back up to the heart. Veins also use one-way valves that open to allow blood to flow upwards toward the heart, then close to keep the blood from backflowing in the wrong direction down the vein.

Varicose veins form as a result of damaged valves. This is mostly because of genetics, but female hormones and pregnancy also play a large roll. When a valve inside a vein breaks, blood is allowed to flow backwards down the vein. This results in blood pooling in the vein, which stretches the vein walls, eventually making it large enough to be seen on the surface of the skin. It also places more pressure on the next valve, which was never designed to hold up to the extra strain, resulting in a cascade of failed valves down the leg. Once there are enough broken valves, it will allow enough blood to pool in the leg that symptoms will develop.


Both Varicose Veins and Spider Veins may cause symptoms, depending on how extensive they are. Common symptoms include aching, pain, heaviness, fatigue, itching, burning, cramping, restlessness, swelling, and throbbing. Symptoms are usually best in the morning and worse late in the day, correlating with how long your legs have been down, allowing gravity to hold the blood in your legs.  Once you lie down at night, gravity becomes your friend, helping pull the blood out of the broken veins so that by morning, your legs will feel better again.  Symptoms can vary depending on things like how much you have been on your feet, how hot and humid it is outside, how strenuous your activity level has been, and so on.

Treatment Options for Spider Veins



This nonsurgical treatment is an easy and effective way to treat venous insufficiency. It involves injecting a sclerosing agent directly into the vein. The sclerosing agent is an irritant and forces the sides of the unhealthy vein to stick together, effectively cutting off blood flow. We use an FDA-approved medication called Polidocanol to do this.

The blood is then immediately rerouted to healthier veins. The treated veins are then reabsorbed into the body and become invisible, even to an ultrasound. Sometimes, there are larger “feeder” veins, deeper within the leg, that need to be treated as well. If you have these, we often use a fiber-optic light, called Veinlite, that works to transilluminate the skin for better visualization of the vessels. This allows us to offer you the best treatment for your unique needs.

After your sclerotherapy treatment, you’ll be asked to relax in our comfortable office, with your legs elevated, for 10 to 15 minutes. Depending on your treatment, we may ask you to wear compression stockings during this time. There is basically no downtime with this treatment. You can get up, walk around, and return to your normal activities immediately afterward, and you can resume exercise the next day. It’s suggested that you wear compression stockings for a week or two after the treatment to give you the best results.

Surface Laser and BroadBand Light

This non-invasive treatment utilizes high-intensity pulses of visible light that penetrate the skin for a very brief time. Each pulse of light targets the lower layers of the skin without affecting the top layers. This treatment is most often used to target veins in lower pressure areas, like the face, and veins that are too small to inject, such as with rosacea.

This treatment isn’t as effective for high-pressure veins that are below the level of the heart, such as in the legs. This treatment works by targeting the blood beneath the surface of your skin. The light energy delivered in the pulses causes the blood in the treated area to heat up, damaging the walls of the veins being treated. The veins then collapse and dissolve, and the blood is rerouted to healthier veins.

After treatment, the veins being treated slowly dissolve over the next two weeks. If you have Rosacea, it may require periodic treatments to keep the issue under control.

If you have large Varicose Veins, learn more about treatment here.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are Vein Issues Common?

Developing unhealthy or deformed veins is actually a very common issue. About 40 to 45 percent of men, and 50 to 55 percent of women, in the United States have some sort of vein problem. Varicose veins actually affect half of the population over the age of 50.

2. Why Do More Women Develop Veinous Insufficiency than Men?

It’s more common for women to develop vein issues that lead to spider or varicose veins because veinous insufficiency is affected by hormones. Changing hormones, as occurs during puberty, the use of birth control, pregnancy, or menopause, can increase the likelihood of such vein issues.

Furthermore, pregnancy increases the volume of blood in the body, putting more pressure on the lower veins, and increasing the likelihood of vein issues. However, spider or varicose veins that form during pregnancy tend to disappear postpartum.

3. How Does Age Affect the Likelihood of Developing Vein Issues?

As we grow older, parts of our body begin to wear out. Our valves and vein walls are no different. Having weaker valves or vein walls makes it easier to develop spider or varicose veins.

4. Can Your Job Impact the Likelihood of Developing Vein Issues?

Surprisingly, yes! If you have a job that requires you to sit or stand all day, this may increase your likelihood of developing spider or varicose veins, as well as make existing unhealthy veins worse. Sitting and standing for long periods of time increases the pressure in your legs and can make vein health worse.

5. Is There Any Way to Prevent Spider or Varicose Veins from Forming?

While there isn’t any way to ensure that your veins will remain healthy, there are some preventative measures you can take to decrease your likelihood of developing spider or varicose veins or help improve the health of ones that already exist.

Low-Impact Exercise

Because veins have thin muscular walls in comparison to arteries, they depend on the contractions of the surrounding muscles to work the blood back to the heart. Exercise can help to encourage blood to return to the heart, in addition to lowering your blood pressure, which can also help.

Exercise that is low-impact can help to get your calf muscles working without causing excessive strain that might cause damage to already weakened vein walls and one-way valves. Some great low-impact exercises are swimming, walking, cycling, and yoga.

Wear Compression Stockings

You’ll want to wear compression stockings after treating your unhealthy veins, but they can be helpful in reducing symptoms of unhealthy veins. By applying pressure to the legs, compression stockings help the muscles and veins to move the blood back to the heart. Wearing compression stockings can reduce the pain and other symptoms associated with venous insufficiency.

Keep the Legs Elevated

Elevating your legs, particularly at or above the height of your heart, will help to improve your circulation. One of the primary causes of vein issues is how difficult it is for your veins to get your blood to travel back to the heart. By elevating your legs, you can help the process along, because your veins don’t have to work against gravity.

Gently Massage Your Legs

You can help to keep the blood moving in the affected areas of your legs by gently massaging your legs. Using a gentle massage oil or moisturizer will give you optimal effects because it allows the hands to seamlessly move over the skin. It’s important, however, that you don’t press directly onto the damaged veins, as this can cause more damage to already fragile tissues.

Keep Moving

Even if you engage in regular exercise, it’s important that you get up and move throughout the day. If you have a job that forces you to sit or stand for long periods of time during work, make time to change position frequently or get up and move around. This will help keep your blood flowing healthily and smoothly. Try to avoid sitting with your legs crossed, as this can restrict blood flow even more.

Wear Loose Clothing

Wearing constrictive or tight clothing can restrict blood flow. You might find that your circulation is improved by wearing loose-fitting clothing that isn’t restrictive on your lower body. Furthermore, wearing flat shoes, rather than high heels, can help to reduce the pressure and strain on your lower legs.

Make Dietary Changes

There are several dietary factors that can affect your vein health. Salty foods cause the body to retain water, which increases the pressure in your veins and can likewise increase your risk of developing spider or varicose veins. Eating foods low in sodium can help to prevent water retention. Furthermore, foods high in potassium help to reduce water retention.

Keeping a fiber-rich diet can also reduce your likelihood of developing vein problems. Foods that are high in fiber can help to prevent constipation. Because constipation can lead to straining, which can aggravate already damaged valves and vein walls, fiber can help to keep your veins healthy and your blood moving.

Get the Help You Need

Know that if you have spider or varicose veins, you aren’t alone. Veinous insufficiency affects the majority of adults in America today, but it’s easy to treat. Whether you choose to opt for Sclerotherapy or Surface Laser and BroadBand Light as a treatment option, we can help you move past spider veins and towards beautiful, clear skin.

If you’re looking to get rid of your spider veins, give us a call today at Madison Medispa, located in Waunakee, WI.