Spider Veins 
Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

What Are Spider Veins?

Spider veins are small, thin veins that appear just below the surface of the skin. Also known as thread veins, they may be purple, red, or blue and often resemble thin branches.

Although spider veins are rarely painful or harmful, people often prefer to have them removed for cosmetic reasons.

What Causes Spider Veins?

Spider veins in the legs occur when the veins fail to move blood properly. Blood makes its way back to the heart through your body’s network of veins. To ensure the blood moves toward the heart, veins have a valve that opens to let the blood pass through. It then closes to prevent the blood from moving away from the heart.

Sometimes, this valve becomes weak or damaged. When that happens, the blood no longer flows correctly. It may begin to pool, which causes the vein to branch out, creating spider veins.

If you have spider veins in the face, the cause is likely excess pressure or sun damage. Either scenario may cause one of the tiny blood vessels in your face to burst.

Varicose Veins on back of legs

What Are the Risk Factors for Spider Veins?

Your risk for developing spider veins is heightened if you have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • A family history of spider veins
  • Are older, as veins – and their valves – tend to get weaker over time, particularly if you have vascular or heart disease
  • Being a female (pregnancy, taking OCP’s, hormone fluxuations)
  • Are pregnant or had them during a previous pregnancy (they may disappear after the pregnancy)
  • Sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time – which makes your veins work harder
  • Have a personal history of blood clots or other damage to veins
  • Are overweight, which weakens the veins in your legs
  • Take hormones for either birth control or menopause

Please note that even having all of the above risk factors does not guarantee you will acquire spider veins.

Spider Vein Treatment Options


For this procedure, the provider injects a solution into the vein. This damages the vein, causing it to close. Blood simply reroutes to a healthy vein.

Patients may need more than one injection. However, the method is effective. It also requires no anesthesia and can be performed in our office. Typically, the patient wears compression socks for one to two weeks following sclerotherapy.

What’s the Difference Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?

Although both conditions result from a condition known as venous insufficiency, they are very different.

As already stated, spider veins are thin and usually flat, though they may be slightly raised. They are typically painless. Varicose veins are much larger and are usually purple or blue. They often have a twisted, lumpy appearance. In addition, varicose vein symptoms may include pain, itching, swelling of the legs and ankles, and even bleeding. Your legs may also feel heavy and aching. Finally, varicose veins raise your risk of blood clots and other circulation issues.

Can You Prevent Spider Veins?

You can prevent spider veins with simple lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Avoid prolonged heat exposure in hot tubs and saunas
  • Don’t sit or stand for more than 30 minutes at a time
  • Don’t wear clothing that’s too tight around the waist or legs
  • Elevate the legs when sitting or lying down
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Watch your weight
  • Wear compression stockings, particularly if you have a family history of varicose or spider veins
  • Wear sunscreen every day

You can also talk to the specialists at The Vein Institute of Phoenix. We can discuss your risk factors and any medical conditions that increase your risk of developing spider veins.