Spider Veins

Spider veins are damaged blood vessels just under your skin that look red, blue or purple. They’re usually harmless. Spider veins don’t typically cause any symptoms, but rarely, may cause burning, itching or discomfort (especially in your legs). Treatments can get rid of spider veins and help you feel better about your skin’s appearance.


Spider veins on a person’s upper leg.
Spider veins can form anywhere on your body, but they often show up on your legs.

What are spider veins?

Spider veins (telangiectasias) are damaged, visible blood vessels just beneath your skin’s surface. They typically look red, blue or purple. They may appear in clusters that resemble spider webs or tree branches. Spider veins can form anywhere, but they usually develop in your legs or face.

Spider veins are typically harmless. They only need treatment if you don’t like the way they look. Treatment is often successful in getting rid of them. You may also want to make lifestyle changes to help keep new ones from forming.

When should I be worried about spider veins?

There’s usually no need to worry. Spider veins aren’t dangerous by themselves. They simply mean some small blood vessels are damaged. Spider veins are mostly a cosmetic issue, meaning you might not like their appearance, but they won’t harm you.

Sometimes, though, spider veins are an early sign of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This is a vein disease that can affect your quality of life and lead to complications.

If you notice spider veins, talk to a healthcare provider. They can give you a physical exam and check to see if you have risk factors for CVI.

How common are spider veins?

Spider veins are common. They affect more than 50% of women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB), and they become even more common after age 80.

Spider veins are more common among women and people AFAB compared with men and people assigned male at birth.

Spider veins vs. varicose veins

Spider veins aren’t actually veins. They’re damaged capillaries, venules and arterioles. These are all small blood vessels that connect with larger blood vessels as part of your circulatory system. But the term “spider veins” is easy to say and remember.

Varicose veins are damaged veins. Veins are larger blood vessels that carry oxygen-poor blood back toward your heart. Varicose veins are usually larger than spider veins and tend to bulge outward from your skin.

Spider veins rarely cause symptoms, and people seek treatment for cosmetic reasons. Varicose veins often cause symptoms like leg pain and discomfort. So, people seek varicose vein treatment for cosmetic reasons or to ease symptoms.

Many people who have spider veins also have varicose veins. This is because they share many of the same causes and risk factors.


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Symptoms and Causes

What causes spider veins?

Spider veins form when small blood vessels just under your skin weaken and expand. It’s not always clear what causes this to happen. Some known causes include:

What are the risk factors?

You may face a higher risk for spider veins if you:

What are the symptoms of spider veins?

Spider veins don’t cause symptoms. A small number of people with spider veins in their legs experience the following symptoms, especially after standing awhile:

  • Burning.
  • Cramping.
  • Itching.
  • Legs that feel tired.
  • Pain.

However, these symptoms are often unrelated to the spider veins, and treating the spider veins doesn’t improve these symptoms.


What are the complications of spider veins?

Spider veins on their own rarely lead to complications. But if you also have other conditions, such as CVI, you may be at risk for venous stasis ulcers or cellulitis. It’s important to talk to a provider about the health of your blood vessels and signs of complications you should look out for.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are spider veins diagnosed?

To diagnose spider veins, a healthcare provider will:

  • Perform a physical exam.
  • Ask about your medical history and biological family history.

Your provider will look for signs of CVI to determine if your spider veins signal a more serious blood flow problem. If you have CVI, you may need to see a vascular surgeon for further evaluation and treatment.


Management and Treatment

How are spider veins treated?

Spider vein treatments include:

  • Sclerotherapy. This is a minimally invasive treatment option for spider veins in your legs. A provider injects a chemical solution into your spider vein to close it off. You should see your spider vein go away in about three to six weeks. Some people need several sessions to fully get rid of their spider veins.
  • Laser therapy. This is a noninvasive treatment option for spider veins, usually those in your face. Unlike sclerotherapy, there’s no chemical solution or injection. Instead, a provider uses a laser to create heat and destroy the spider vein. If the spider vein is small, you may see it disappear right away. It may take one to three months for larger spider veins to go away. Some people need multiple sessions.

If you’re considering treatment, talk to a provider about what’s best for you. It’s important to keep in mind that providers will look for and treat more serious issues before treating your spider veins. For example, if you have signs of CVI, such as varicose veins or venous stasis ulcers, your provider will treat those issues first.


How do you stop spider veins?

Self-care can sometimes help prevent new spider veins from forming. Tips include:

  • Avoid sitting or standing for too long at a time. If you need to sit for a while, stand up every 30 minutes and walk around. If you need to stand for a while, sit down and take a quick break every 30 minutes.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing. Such clothing can interfere with your normal blood circulation and cause spider veins to form.
  • Exercise regularly. Moving around can help increase blood flow in your legs. Ask your provider before starting a new exercise plan.
  • Flex your feet and ankles. If you need to stay seated or in the same position for a while, move your feet. Flex your ankles up and down. Try to squeeze and relax your calf muscles to support blood flow in your legs.
  • Keep a weight that’s healthy for you. A healthy body weight can limit pressure on your blood vessel walls so they function normally.
  • Lift up (elevate) your legs. Try to do this at least twice a day for 30 minutes each time. Your legs should be at least as high as your heart.
  • Wear compression stockings. Your provider may recommend compression stockings to improve blood flow in your legs. You may also need to wear them for a short time after treatment for spider veins. Always talk to your provider before starting any form of compression therapy.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have spider veins?

Spider veins usually don’t lead to serious problems. Treatment usually gets rid of them and helps you feel better about your skin’s appearance. You may need treatment again in the future if new spider veins form.

If you have CVI, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider about what you can expect going forward

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

Follow your provider’s advice for lifestyle changes that may improve blood flow. Common tips include:

  • Move around more. Try to increase your level of physical activity each day. This includes intentional exercise, plus adding steps to your normal routine. It also means avoiding long periods of standing or sitting.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. A heart-healthy eating pattern, such as the Mediterranean diet, can help you keep a weight that’s healthy for you. It can also lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Elevate your feet. Placing your feet at the level of your heart or higher can help improve blood flow in your legs. This, in turn, can help prevent new spider or varicose veins from forming. It can also manage symptoms.

When should I seek care?

If you have any concerns about your blood vessels, call your provider and schedule a checkup.

You should also call your provider if:

  • A spider vein (or any blood vessel) appears swollen or red, or it feels warm or tender when you touch it. These can be signs of a blood clot.
  • You notice a rash or sores on your skin.
  • You notice changes to your skin color.
  • You’re having symptoms that interfere with your daily life.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

Talk to your healthcare provider about your spider veins and what they mean for you. Questions to ask include:

  • Should I be concerned about my spider veins?
  • Are my spider veins a sign of an underlying issue?
  • How can I prevent getting more spider veins?
  • Which treatments may help me?
  • What can I expect before, during and after treatment?
  • What are possible side effects or complications of treatment?
  • What lifestyle changes should I make?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

You might not be a fan of how your spider veins look. But rest assured, they’re usually harmless, and treatment can often make them go away. Still, it’s always a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider about any new spider veins you notice. They can sometimes be an early sign of more serious blood flow problems. Ask your provider about lifestyle changes that can help keep new spider veins from forming.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 12/29/2022.

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