Sometimes the veins seem to become more visible in a certain section of your face. They have a web like appearance and seem to be branching out. Application of pressure makes them disappear but also causes mild pain and discomfort. It is likely that these visible veins are spider veins, which are medically known as telangiectasia. They are common and can also be treated effectively and easily.
What Is Telangiectasia Or Spider Veins?
Dilated blood vessels (blood capillaries) that appear prominently on the skin’s surface or on mucous membranes are called telangiectasia. These blood vessels can involve venules, hence this condition is also called as venulectasia. The visible blood vessels dilate or open up under pressure and usually become 1mm to 3mm in diameter. The web like appearance of the thin capillaries gives this condition its alternated name called spider veins.
Telangiectasias are common on the visible areas of the body such as the cheeks, chin, around the nose, lips, etc. Spider veins on legs are also fairly common with higher incidence seen among men and women above the age of 50 years.
Also Read: What Is Spider Angioma?
What Causes Spider Veins?
Spider veins or telangiectasia can be caused due to genetic causes as well as acquired or environmental causes. A combination of these causes can also exist. Common telangiectasia causes include –
- Increased and repetitive exposure to sunlight
- Prolonged sitting or standing
- Skin trauma
- Topical corticosteroid usage
- Skin conditions like rosacea, scleroderma, dermatomyositis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Liver disease
- Exposure to radiation
Genetic conditions that become the reasons for spider veins are given below –
- Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT; also called as Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome)
- Benign hereditary telangiectasia
- Ataxia telangiectasia
- Nevus flammeus
- Sturge-Weber syndrome
- Bloom’s syndrome
- Maffucci’s syndrome
Hemorrhagic telangiectasia is the most common genetic abnormality that has been observed to be associated with spider veins. This condition can lead to hemorrhage because the spider veins are formed in internal organs like the brain, liver, and lungs. Telangiectasia hemangioma is also associated with hemorrhagic telangiectasias.
Also Read: Common Skin Diseases
Types Of Telangiectasia
Based on the appearance of the spider veins, telangiectasia is classified into the following types –
- Linear or simple
- Arborizing or radiating
- Papular or punctiform
Each of these types have a different correlation to varying depths of the venous system. Because of the involvement of the venous system, spider veins are often confused with varicose veins.
Depending on the location of the telangiectasia, different names have also been given which can be considered as another classification. Commonly seen types of telangiectasia in different locations are as follows –
- Parafoveal telangiectasia – Found in the macula region of the eye and can lead to retinal bleeding
- Duodenal telangiectasia – Present in the duodenum (gastrointestinal region)
- Facial telangiectasia – Seen on the face areas such as cheeks, chin, etc.
- Periungual telangiectasia – Present in the nails
- Leg telangiectasia or lower extremity telangiectasis – Spider veins on feet, thighs, ankles, etc.
Also Read: What Are Dark Spots On Face?
Signs & Symptoms
The symptoms of spider veins are –
- Thread like veins or spider veins
- Red, blue or purple in color
- Pain in the affected region
Serious symptoms are seen with HHT and other congenital forms of telangiectasia such as nosebleeds, shortness of breath, seizures, internal bleeding (hemorrhage), port wine stain birthmark, etc.
The first and foremost diagnosis for spider veins is by evaluating the clinical appearance of the condition of the skin. The dermatologist will examine your skin and also note down your medical history to understand the cause of the disease. Since telangiectasia can be associated with serious disorders, a detailed diagnosis can also be performed in addition to an analysis of your family history of the skin condition. Diagnostic tests that are often used include –
- Blood tests
- CT scan
- Liver function tests
Also Read: Types Of Skin Lesions
Spider Vein Treatment
Be it due to cosmetic reasons or because of the requirement to treat telangiectasia due to the underlying genetic condition, spider veins treatment is performed using various techniques to avoid bleeding and reduce the appearance of the thread veins.
This involves injecting a chemical solution into the affected skin. The chemical causes the formation of a blood clot that leads to the capillaries thickening or collapsing. Eventually, the superficial appearance of the blood vessels is reduced and the skin returns to its normal look. Spider veins on legs are often treated with this therapy. Multiple injections can be required depending on the dosage of the medication for spider veins that is being used.
A few complications have been associated with sclerotherapy due to the chemical travelling to other regions of the body through the circulation. In very rare cases, strokes and ischemic attacks were also caused.
(II) Laser Treatment
The energy from the laser light is targeted only on the affected blood vessels to seal them off. Sealing the vessels will restrict blood flow to them and ultimately cause them to dissolve and disappear. Some pain might be associated with this cosmetic spider vein treatment but is manageable using numbing agents. Depending on the intensity and frequency of the telangiectasias, a few sessions of laser therapy may be required. This treatment option is the most viable to get rid of spider veins from the face (nose, cheeks, etc.) and other prominent locations because of the short healing time and efficacy.
In some cases, surgery to remove the spider veins may be required so that internal bleeding can be avoided. Further complications can easily be prevented this way, especially when the spider veins are present in or near vital organs. Surgery is a painful procedure that is associated with longer healing time. Hemorrhagic telangiectasia treatment often involves surgery.
Also Read: How To Take Care Of Skin From Sun?
Many factors associated with telangiectasia are not under our control. However, there are still measures you can undertake to prevent spider veins from developing –
- Do not stay out in the sun for extended periods of time.
- Make sure to apply a sunscreen of minimum SPF 30 at least 20 mins before you step out into the sun.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time.
- Exercise regularly to keep the blood circulation optimal and to strengthen your muscles.
- If possible, elevate your legs for 10-15 minutes every day.
- Eat a healthy diet to keep your weight under control and avoid unnecessary blockages of blood vessels.
- If you suffer from swelling in the legs often, try wearing compression stockings.
Also Read: How To Find A Dermatologist?
- Who Is At Risk Of Contracting Telangiectasia?
People who sit or stand for long periods, are exposed to sunlight repeatedly, are pregnant, are overweight, have a family history of telangiectasia, alcohol abuse or smoking, use topical corticosteroids, are elderly or have existing skin conditions like rosacea and dermatomyositis; are at a higher risk of contracting telangiectasia.
- What Body Areas Are Affected By Telangiectasia?
Facial areas such as nose, lips, cheeks, eyes, thighs, ankles, and fingers are commonly affected by telangiectasia.
- Diseases Associated With Telangiectasias
- Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome)
- Bloom syndrome
- Bloom’s syndrome
- Cutis marmorata telangiectatica congenita
- Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome
- Nevus flammeus
- Spider angioma
- Sturge-Weber disease
- Xeroderma pigmentosum
- Maffucci’s syndrome
- Hypotrichosis–lymphedema–telangiectasia syndrome
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Liver diseases
- Are Varicose Veins And Spider Veins The Same?
No, varicose veins and spider veins are not the same. Spider veins are thin vessels that are red, blue or purple in appearance whereas varicose veins are swollen blood vessels that are large and raised. The pain associated with spider veins is more like itching and burning sensation. Varicose veins often cause an aching and throbbing sensation in the legs along with cramps and restlessness. Spider veins can appear on any visible areas of the body, but varicose veins are found on the thighs and lower legs only.
Also Read: What Is Melanocytic Nevus?
- Are Spider Veins Genetic?
Yes, spider veins can be genetic in many cases. You can inherit the condition from either of your parents.
Spider veins or telangiectasias are benign in most situations. The discomfort caused by them is more of a cosmetic concern due to their development in prominent locations. A consultation with a dermatologist will help you to understand the cause and also undergo differential diagnosis to check for any underlying diseases that may cause it. Appropriate treatment can then be undertaken to reduce the thread veins appearance seen superficially and also avoid further complications.