Spider Veins (Telangiectasia)
What are Spider Veins?
Spider Veins is a condition in which widened venules (tiny blood vessels) cause threadlike red lines or patterns on the skin. They’re known as spider veins because of their fine, web-like appearance. These patterns emerge gradually and in clusters, typically forming on the lips, nose, eyes, fingers, and cheeks.
They can cause discomfort, and some people find them unattractive. Many people choose to have them removed, which involves a procedure that damages the vessel and forces it to collapse or scar. This reduces the appearance of the red marks or patterns on the skin.
Risk Factors of Spider Veins
Spider veins are a common skin disorder, even among healthy people.
Some risk factors include:
- Working outdoors
- Sitting or standing all day
- Rosacea, scleroderma, dermatomyositis, or systemic lupus erythematosus (sle)
- Corticosteroid use
Causes of Spider Veins
The exact cause of spider veins is unknown, however, researchers believe several causes may contribute to the development of spider veins. These causes may be genetic, environmental, or a combination of both. It’s believed that most cases of spider veins are caused by chronic exposure to the sun or extreme temperatures.
Some hypothesized causes include:
- Alcoholism (which affects the flow of blood in vessels and can cause liver disease)
- Pregnancy (often applies large amounts of pressure on venules)
- Aging (blood vessels tend to weaken with age)
- Rosacea (enlarges venules in the face, creating a flushed appearance in cheeks and nose)
- Habitual corticosteroid use (thins and weakens the skin)
- Scleroderma (hardens and contracts the skin)
- Dermatomyositis (inflames skin and underlying muscle tissue)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (can increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and extreme temperatures)
Symptoms of Spider Veins
Although they can be uncomfortable and some people may not like how they look, spider veins are generally not life-threatening. They develop gradually, but can be worsened by health and beauty products that cause skin irritation (i.e. abrasive soaps and sponges).
- Pain (related to pressure on venules)
- Threadlike red marks or patterns on the skinn
Diagnosis of Spider Veins
Spider veins are easily visible from the threadlike red lines or patterns it creates on the skin, so diagnosing this condition is relatively simple. In some cases, doctors may run more tests to make sure that there is no underlying disorder causing the spider veins.
Some diseases associated with spider veins include:
- Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT) – an inherited disorder of the blood vessels in skin and internal organs that can cause excessive bleeding
- Sturge-Weber Disease – a rare disorder that causes a port-wine stain birthmark and nervous system problems
- Spider Angiomas – an abnormal collection of blood vessels near the surface of the skin
- Xeroderma Pigmentosum – a rare condition in which the skin and eyes are extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light
HHT may cause the formation of abnormal blood vessels, which may result in hemorrhage (severe bleeding). This bleeding can be deadly if it occurs in the brain, liver, or lungs. To diagnose HHT, doctors may perform an MRI or a CT scan to look for bleeding or abnormalities inside the body.
Treatment of Spider Veins
Treatment generally focuses on improving the appearance of the skin. Different methods include:
Lasers are used to target the widened vessels and close them (this usually involves little pain and has a short recovery period)
Widened vessels can be removed through traditional surgical means (this can be very painful and may lead to a long recovery)
A procedure that focuses on causing damage to the inner lining of the blood vessel by injecting it with a chemical solution that causes a blood clot to form. This cloth then collapses, thickens, or scars the venule. (There’s usually no recovery needed, although there may be some temporary exercise restrictions).
Complications of Spider Veins
There are almost no major complications associated with spider veins.
Outlook of Spider Veins
Treatment can improve the appearance of the skin. Those who have treatment can expect to lead a normal life after recovery. Depending on the parts of the body where the AVMs are located, people with HHT can also have a normal lifespan.