Spider veins are small clusters of red, blue or purple veins that are commonly found on the calves, thighs and ankles. These annoying, unattractive veins are actually enlarged capillaries, which present as purplish or reddish lines or web-like discolorations.
Telangiectasias and spider veins can usually be used to describe the same thing. They are small dilated blood vessels that usually measure less than 1 millimeter in diameter. They can develop anywhere on the body but they are most commonly found on the face and legs. When found on the legs, they are found specifically on the upper thigh, below the knee joint, and around the ankles. They may be associated with underlying venous reflux.
Reticular veins are also referred to as “feeder” veins. This is because they can exist independently, but more commonly can be the underlying problem that gives rise to surface spider veins. They usually present as the dilated blue and green veins beneath the skin surface. Fortunately, these medium size veins do not lead to substantial medical symptoms or complications.
Perforator veins connect superficial veins to deep veins. They contain one-way valves to direct the blood from the superficial system to the deep system.
Varicose veins are thick, blue, ropy veins that have lost their ability to circulate blood back to the heart causing it to pool in the legs. Healthy veins function as one-way valves that keep the blood moving in the right direction. Sometimes a vein may become incompetent, allowing blood to leak back down, away from the heart and lungs, and pool in the legs. This congestion can result in fatigue, swelling, throbbing, heaviness, aching and restlessness in the legs. In advanced cases, skin rash, pigmentation changes, inflammation, ulceration, and bleeding may occur.