Spider veins, often called telangiectasia, are unsightly dilated networks of tiny skin vessels that appear most commonly on the legs. They can be red, blue or purple, and when extensive, sometimes cause leg discomfort. They usually form one of three patterns: linear, starburst, or arborizing (tree-like).
Reticular veins are slightly larger and located deeper in skin; when their tiny valves fail they dilate, become tortuous, and produce localized backward blood flow; they often appear as unattractive networks of blue or purple streaks. Incompetent reticular veins typically "feed" one or more clusters of spider veins. Unlike varicose veins, spider and reticular veins do not bulge on the skin surface.
Nonetheless, many women are bothered by their appearance and avoid wearing shorts, skirts and bathing suits. Early treatment not only eliminates existing ones but can prevent new ones that are in the process of forming.
When spider and tortuous reticular veins occur on the outer thigh, knee or calf, the vein valve incompetence is typical isolated to a small network of veins on the outside of the knee--the lateral (Albanese) venous system. This very common pattern is generally considered only cosmetic problem, because the spider veins not reflect underlying saphenous vein incompetence and are generally not associated with significant symptoms.
Patients with varicose vein disease also frequently have extensive spider veins. Although their appearance usually improves after endovenous ablation, these veins typically do not entirely go away without direct treatment.