Varicose veins are twisted, bulging veins that result from prolonged periods of standing. They are usually dark blue or purplish in color, and can actually hurt. Spider veins affect the smaller, more surface-level veins. They look like clusters of red, thread-like veins and can appear on the face in addition to the legs. While spider veins aren't dangerous, varicose veins can sometimes mean a serious medical condition, so they're definitely worth a visit to the doctor.
Both of these conditions can occur simply as we age, and our veins stretch and stop functioning quite like they used to. When the valve fails and blood pools in a vein, the veins can become enlarged and twisted, turn color and protrude from under the skin. Genetics, hormones and stress can also contribute, as well as pregnancy or jobs where you're on your feet much of the time.
Surgical methods are available to treat varicose veins, such as laser and light therapy, and minimally invasive procedures (Endovenous thermal ablation uses heat to seal off malfunctioning veins, thereby diverting blood flow to nearby healthy veins; micropuncture or micro-incision phlebectomy involves a doctor "hooking" and then removing diseased veins through very small incisions; and transilluminated power phlebectomy utilizes a fiberoptic light to highlight the vein segments which are then suctioned out through an incision).
Sclerotherapy is another method for treating varicose veins that is also useful on spider veins. The vein is injected with a hypertonic saline or sodium tetradecyl sulfate solution which causes the vein to collapse and fade from view. For best results, multiple treatments are typically recommended and side-effects may include bruising or tenderness at the injection site. With any vein treatment, consult a doctor or vascular specialist before undergoing any procedure.
How about topical treatments? While many products, usually containing vitamin K, are currently on the market, these treatments are only temporary solutions. They work by enabling the blood to clot in the vein, but the clot is only temporary and the spider veins will return.