What Are Varicose and Spider Veins?

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
July 19, 2021

What are Varicose Veins?

They are ugly, blue or purple veins that look like twisted or bulging cords. Leg veins are most affected by varicosity. They are a cosmetic issue and may become a medical issue. They may cause no pain. But, when the veins are significantly compromised, symptoms include an achy feeling in the legs, burning, cramping, throbbing and swelling in the legs.

What are Spider Veins?

varicose veins

Spider veins are a smaller version of varicose veins. They involve the capillaries which are the smallest vessels in the body. Spider veins are commonly found on the upper body, face and legs. They look like red tree branches. They are a cosmetic concern, but rarely cause a medical issue.

What Causes Varicose and Spider Veins?

Venous Insufficiency is the underlying cause for both conditions. Inside the veins are valves to keep blood flowing in one direction. These valves allow blood to return to the heart from the legs against gravity. When these valves wear out or are damaged, they leak blood that flows backwards and pools in the veins. The veins swell and appear as spider veins and varicose veins.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) means the veins and valves are incapable of moving blood back to the heart. When left untreated, chronic venous insufficiency can result in disabling pain, swelling and leg ulcers. Chronic insufficiency is most often found in the obese, during pregnancy or when there is a family history of varicose veins.

Other reasons for venous insufficiency and development of varicose veins include a blood clot in a vein or trauma that causes the valves to fail and completely block the vein. When blood clots in varicose veins this is called Phlebitis. It is generally found in superficial or surface veins. Symptoms include pain, and hot, tight calves and discoloration in the affect leg. Chronic venous insufficiency can develop after a blood clot in a leg vein.

What Causes Venous Insufficiency?

Genetics, age, hormones, puberty, pregnancy, birth control can all affect vein circulation and weaken veins.

Who Gets Varicose Veins?

50% of both men and women over the age of 50 suffer with varicose veins. Women seek help more often than men. More than 40 million people in the U.S. have varicose veins. Studies show that about 50% of patients have a family member who suffers from varicose veins.

Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency

  • Heaviness in the legs
  • Pain
  • Tight, itchy calves
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles
  • Pain during walking that subsides with rest called intermittent claudication
  • Darkening of the skin near the ankles
  • Leg ulcers- open sores that won’t heal, usually located inside the ankle

These symptoms can resemble other conditions. A consultation with the board-qualified vein surgeons at South Valley Vascular Associates, can diagnose the condition. South Valley Vascular has three offices for your convenience. We are located in Visalia, Porterville and Hanford. Give us a call when you need an expert in vein problems.


Most often varicose veins and spider veins can be diagnosed visually by a vascular doctor- a doctor who specializes in blood vessel conditions. Further testing can determine the extent of the problem. An ultrasound will reveal how well the blood is flowing and whether there are any blood clots.

Our offices treat a variety of conditions, from varicose veins to spider veins and even chronic venous disease. If you are interested in vein treatment and want to know more, contact South Valley Vascular at (559) 625-4118 to find out which vein treatment is right for you! With convenient locations throughout the Tulare area, seeing a vein specialist has never been easier!