With cooler temperatures on the way, you’re probably not thinking about shorts and skirts. But if you have spider veins or varicose veins, you may want to get them treated in the fall or winter. This can depend on your needs and plans.

What Are Spider and Varicose Veins?

Spider and varicose veins happen when the valves in your veins don’t work properly.

The major differences between varicose veins and spider veins include size, color, and prominence. That’s according to Natalie Sridharan, MD, a vascular surgeon with UPMC.

“Varicose veins are those more large, bulging veins that people see on their legs,” says Dr. Sridharan. “Whereas spider veins tend to be smaller, blue-colored, non-bulging veins that people tend be bothered by more cosmetically. However, even spider veins can be present in patients with underlying venous insufficiency.”

Spider veins are a small type of varicose veins that usually appear as red or blue webs close to your skin. Though they can change how your legs look, they don’t usually cause any physical symptoms.

Varicose veins are large, bulging veins that can change how your legs look and feel. Some of their symptoms can include:

  • Brown skin discoloration.
  • Heaviness or tiredness in the legs.
  • Itching.
  • Pain.
  • Skin ulcers, or wounds that don’t heal.
  • Swelling.

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Who Gets Spider and Varicose Veins?

Though spider and varicose veins can affect anyone, they’re most common in women, especially women who’ve had children. You may also have a higher risk of varicose veins if you:

  • Have a family history of varicose veins
  • Are on your feet a lot
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have a family history of varicose veins

Spider and Varicose Vein Treatment Options

In most cases, you can get spider and varicose vein treatment on an outpatient basis. Depending on your condition and symptoms, treatment may include:

  • Compression stockings, which can help relieve the symptoms of varicose veins but won’t treat the underlying cause.
  • Endovenous ablation, a catheter-based procedure that uses heat to safely close varicose veins.
  • Sclerotherapy, a series of injections that uses medication to safely close spider and varicose veins.
  • In severe cases, you may need surgery to remove varicose veins.

Check out the Varicose Vein and Spider Vein Virtual Care Center

The UPMC Varicose Vein and Spider Vein Virtual Care Center can help correct cosmetic vein conditions and manage severe venous disorders. For your first visit, our experts will assess your condition’s severity and recommend a personalized treatment plan virtually. Based on your assessment, your provider and care team will help schedule any necessary follow-up in-person exams, testing, or treatment.

Your video visit will take place using your MyUPMC account, and a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Ensure that your provider can see your legs and feet during your video visit. If you have any wounds, you can still use the virtual care center.

Are There Side Effects?

Most spider and varicose vein treatments are quick and usually low risk, but some patients may have side effects.

Sclerotherapy can cause tenderness, redness, or hard lumps at the injection site and along the veins. It can also cause matting, or a small cluster of thin, red spider veins near the injection site.

Endovenous ablation can cause a pulling sensation as well as tenderness along the vein.

Surgery can cause superficial nerve damage, which causes small areas of numbness in the skin.

Other side effects can include:

Bruising, scabbing, leg swelling, and rarely, small ulcers

Hemosiderin staining, or a light brown discoloration of the skin in the treatment area. This typically fades over time but may take several months to a year.

Any vein treatment brings a very low risk of deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in a vein deep below your skin.

Many of the patients Dr. Sridharan treats are people with jobs requiring extended periods of standing, she says. Such jobs can include nursing and working in a restaurant.

The condition usually develops as downward pressure in the veins causes blood to pool in the extremities. This may lead to swelling, bulging veins, pain, edema, itching, bleeding, and inflammation. People with any of these symptoms should see a doctor for treatment.

“I always tell patients that, for the vast majority with venous insufficiency, or varicose veins, if they’re going to have a problem, this is a good problem to have,” says Dr. Sridharan.

“Because, for the most part, it’s not terribly dangerous, although it can really affect people’s quality of life. However, there is a very severe spectrum of disease — and we care for those patients as well — that can have such severe venous insufficiency, or such severe pressure in the leg, that they have debilitating swelling, or even to the point that they get venous ulcerations that require special dressing and specialized wound care, which we certainly help take care of.”

When Is the Best Time to Get Treatment for Spider Veins or Varicose Veins?

Depending on your symptoms and plans, your doctor may recommend treatment several months before you’ll wear clothing that shows your legs. Such clothing can include shorts, skirts, or dresses.

For example, if you have a beach trip planned for next summer, you may want to get treatment in the fall or winter. That way, you won’t have to wait for spring or shortly before you leave on your vacation.

In many cases, fall and winter are good times to get treatment. This is because cosmetic side effects may resolve before you’re wearing shorts again.

To learn more about the options for spider and varicose vein treatment, call the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute’s Vein Center at 412-802-3333.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.