Spider veins are close to the surface and are enlarged and dilated. They may appear in short lines or be connected in a pattern. Small, unnoticeable areas may be affected, or they may cover large areas of the legs.
Varicose veins are larger and more dilated than spider veins. These can sometimes be painful and cause a heavy, throbbing feeling. Large and bulging veins are common after giving birth or with aging. Veins with severe pain, bleeding, or discoloration needs to be evaluated by a vascular surgeon.
Both conditions are the result of weakened valves in the veins. After the heart pumps the blood to the legs, the muscles work to push it back up to the heart. Valves in the veins close to keep the blood from flowing back down. When they are weak, the blood goes back into the legs, pooling in the veins and enlarging them.
Although varicose and spider veins are common, there are measures that may prevent or delay their formation. Regular exercise, especially running and walking, will increase circulation and strengthen the muscles. It will also help control weight, another risk factor. Sitting or standing for long periods of time may cause poor circulation. Take breaks and walk around, or shift weight from leg to leg every few minutes. Support stockings help the veins and muscles get the blood back to the heart.