Varicose & Spider Veins | Symptoms and Treatment | MedStar Health

Advanced, often minimally invasive, treatment for gnarled, enlarged veins

One in five adults has varicose or spider veins, most of them women. Varicose veins are dark purple or blue in color and appear twisted or bulging. They may look like cords on your legs. Spider veins, a mild type of varicose veins, may be red or blue and look like a spider’s web.

These common conditions are mostly cosmetic issues, but they also can be painful, lead to ulcers, or indicate a more serious vascular problem. Our vein program team will work with you to relieve pain, prevent complications, and improve your appearance. This could be through lifestyle changes, such as wearing compression stockings, or through more advanced procedures, including the latest minimally invasive techniques.

Blood normally moves from veins near the surface of the skin to the deep veins with the help of a series of valves that keep the blood flowing in one direction. When a valve weakens, the blood flow reverses and moves back into the superficial veins, causing them to twist and swell. This can happen in any vein in your body, but it most commonly occurs in the legs and feet because standing and walking upright increases pressure in these veins. Pregnancy can also lead to varicose and spider veins.

Vericose Veins

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This painful condition, called varicose veins, is extremely common - especially in women. Leg swelling, itching, burning, aching, and the appearance of small branching spider veins often accompany this vascular condition.

What are the symptoms of varicose or spider veins?

Some people may not have any symptoms of varicose or spider veins other than their appearance. However, you also may experience:

  • Aching pain, especially after long periods of sitting or standing

  • A feeling of heaviness in the leg

  • Bleeding in the affected area

  • Burning, throbbing, or cramping in your lower legs

  • Itching

  • Skin ulcers

  • Swelling


Diagnosing varicose or spider veins is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures.

Abdominal Duplex Ultrasound

Abdominal duplex ultrasound is a combination of a traditional and doppler ultrasound that assesses the blood vessels in your abdomen for blockages or aneurysms.


A fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that uses a continuous X-ray beam passed through the body to create real-time, moving images of your internal structures.


Our team will work with you to develop and implement an individualized plan. This could include lifestyle modifications, such as wearing prescription-strength compression hose for extra support and pressure to eliminate symptoms. If your condition is more severe, we may recommend a more advanced treatment, including minimally invasive procedures such as sclerotherapy and radiofrequency ablation.

Radiofrequency Ablation for Varicose Veins

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive technique to treat varicose veins using heat to eliminate damaged veins and improve blood circulation.


Sclerotherapy is a nonsurgical procedure to treat varicose and spider veins.

Additional information

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Vein program

Improve your appearance, decrease pain, and prevent serious complications caused by varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and other venous conditions with minimally invasive treatment from our vascular team.

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