Varicose Veins & Spider Veins

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged, bulging veins, most frequently appearing in an individual’s legs and feet.  Varicose veins occur when the valves in a vein become weakened, causing blood to “pool” in the legs, which limits the blood supply returning to the heart.  When this occurs, veins become visible and can be painful or later cause discomfort.

What are spider veins?

Spider veins are small, dilated blood vessels located close to the surface of the skin that have a red or bluish color. Spider veins get their name from the shape of the discolorations.

What causes varicose & spider veins?

The exact cause of varicose and spider veins is unknown, though research has suggested that genetics, obesity, hormones, a history of blood clots, and occupations that require a lot of standing contribute to the severity of the condition.


  • Visible discoloration and/or bulging veins
  • Achey or heavy feeling in the problem area, commonly the legs
  • Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping, and swelling
  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
  • Itching around one or more of your veins
  • mild, dull discomfort or burning sensation
Your health care professional can diagnose spider veins by looking at them and assessing reported symptoms.  Additional imaging may include an ultrasound scan so the treating physician can identify abnormalities, vein structure, and measure the speed of blood flow.  Ultrasound imaging will allow the physician and patient to discuss and determine best treatment options.
Treatment options available at UTPhysicians:
Based on the severity of the problem area, treatment options range from compression stockings, exercise, and/or minimally invasive procedures to close or remove the veins.  In the event surgical intervention is required, the patient should seek medical attention from a vascular specialist; procedures are typically done under general anesthetic and patients can expect to return home and back to their normal activities within two days.  Surgical options include
  • Sclerotherapy:  the injection of a special solution, known as a sclerosant, into the unwanted veins using a very fine needle. The solution causes the lining of the vessels to seal later reducing the visibility of the veins.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation: through a small incision, a catheter is threaded into the vein, followed by a probe that emits radiofrequency.  The energy that is emitted from the radiofrequency heats up the vein, causing the walls of the vein to collapse, thus closing and sealing it shut.

Additional Information regarding screening options and resources available through UT Physicians:

Free, online screening for varicose and spider veins 

While recommended for everyone, the screenings are particularly important for tobacco users, women, and individuals with a family history of varicose veins.