They are dilations of the small blood vessels on the skin’s surface.
Telangiectasia is a condition in which small, widened, or broken blood vessels near the skin’s surface or mucous membranes create visible patterns of lines.
For most people, these patterns, or telangiectasias, do not cause any harm to general health or require treatment.
The widened vessels weaken, causing bleeding and the eventual appearance of telangiectasias.
However, they can sometimes signify a more serious medical condition and may warrant a closer inspection.
Causes of telangiectasia
Telangiectasias on the legs are also known as spider veins due to their appearance.
Unless a more serious medical condition is causing the telangiectasias, they generally should not be a cause for concern.
Telangiectasias often occur in fair-skinned individuals with long-term sun damage. They can occur anywhere on the body but are most noticeable on the skin, some visible mucous membranes, and the whites of the eyes.
In most cases, telangiectasias do not cause any symptoms. However, they can sometimes bleed. If this bleeding occurs in or near the brain, it can have severe effects.
The exact cause of telangiectasias is often unclear, but several factors can contribute to its development.
These factors include:
- Exposure to the sun and the wind.
- Medicines that widen the blood vessels.
- The pregnancy.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Trauma to the skin.
- Surgical incisions.
The risk of a woman getting telangiectasia increases during pregnancy.
As your body grows to adapt to the developing fetus, it puts significant pressure on the blood vessels.
Hormone therapy and hormonal changes that result from menopause or taking birth control pills can also lead to the formation of facial telangiectasias.
Older people are more likely to have telangiectasia as blood vessels begin to weaken with age.
Liver disease can cause telangiectasias.
Telangiectasia is sometimes a symptom of a more serious medical condition.
These can be such as:
- Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) is an inherited childhood disease that attacks the brain and other body parts.
- Bloom syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes various symptoms, including telangiectasias.
- Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome, or hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), is a genetic condition that leads to the formation of abnormal blood vessels in the skin.
- A port-wine stain is a large patch of discolored skin present at birth.
- Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber (KTW) syndrome combines port-wine stain, varicose veins, and enlarged soft tissue cells.
- Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes redness and swelling on the face.
- Spider angioma is an abnormal collection of blood vessels near the skin’s surface.
- Sturge-Weber syndrome (SWS) is a rare disorder that can cause problems with the nervous system.
- Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) is a rare medical condition in which the skin and eyes become very sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light.
- Liver disease
Connective tissue diseases
Connective tissue diseases can cause telangiectasias to develop on the face and on the part of the hands and feet where the skin meets the nail.
Examples of connective tissue diseases include:
- Scleroderma: Limited scleroderma mainly affects the skin of the face, hands, and feet, while diffuse scleroderma also reaches internal organs. Telangiectasia occurs more frequently in patients with limited scleroderma.
- Dermatomyositis: Telangiectasia can occur in areas of the skin exposed to the sun, often including the neck, chest, shoulders, arms, and upper back.
- Lupus: People with lupus may have telangiectasias in the nail folds and at the edges of discoid lupus lesions.
When to see a doctor
- Visit a doctor when telangiectasia points to a more severe condition.
- If many small lesions appear on the face, it could signify HHT, which is potentially a serious condition.
- Little patches over the breasts and buttocks may indicate poikiloderma mycosis fungoides, a cancerous condition of the T cells in the immune system.
Symptoms of Telangiectasia
Telangiectasias are fine, thread-like lines, usually pink or red but whiten under pressure. Once telangiectasia appears on the skin, these small lines can range in color from red to blue or purple.
Distorted blood vessels are usually 1 to 3 millimeters (mm) wide. They are generally harmless but can be itchy and painful.
They commonly occur on the face, nose, chin, and cheeks, where they can cause facial redness.
Telangiectasias are also often present on the legs, chest, back, arms, etc. People often refer to those that appear on the legs as spider veins.
Spider telangiectasia is telangiectasia that has a central red feeding vessel with outward branches.
Diagnosis of telangiectasia
Telangiectasia is common in people without health problems and is usually the result of sun damage or aging.
Anyone experiencing severe whole-body telangiectasia with a significant increase in blood vessels should see a doctor.
People should also seek treatment as soon as possible if they become aware of a family history of telangiectasia or if they have bleeding or lesions in the mouth or eye area.
These symptoms could indicate a more severe condition.
To determine if there is an underlying medical condition, a person may need some of the following tests:
- Blood test.
- CT scans.
- Liver function studies.
- MRI scans.
Treatment of telangiectasia
Laser removal can remove telangiectasias.
There is no cure for telangiectasia, but the condition is treatable. Doctors often design a treatment plan based on the results of diagnostic tests.
For example, if the underlying cause is acne or rosacea, the doctor may prescribe an oral or topical antibiotic.
Many people choose to remove telangiectasias for cosmetic reasons and because the condition can cause discomfort.
Doctors can use laser therapy, sclerotherapy, or excisional surgery to remove telangiectasias.
Laser therapy is minimally invasive and is generally the most straightforward treatment for facial telangiectasia and broken capillaries. Laser ablation can seal widened blood vessels.
This procedure does not cause much pain and has a short recovery time.
It is a more effective procedure for more prominent veins, making it the standard treatment for telangiectasia in the legs.
It is a minimally invasive procedure in which a dermatologist injects salt water or a chemical solution into the affected veins. The veins will harden and disappear.
Treatment is effective but can take a long time. Insurance companies rarely cover the procedure as they consider spider veins cosmetic. Treatment can therefore also be expensive.
An injection can treat an inch of a vein. People may need between five and 50 injections, depending on the size of the area affected by the condition.
This low-cost treatment does not require hospitalization, as there is no recovery time or anesthesia. It can also be a good option for facial spider veins more prominent than regularly broken capillaries.
Excision surgery can remove widened blood vessels, but this procedure has a more extended recovery period and causes considerable pain.
Overview of telangiectasia
Some causes of telangiectasia will not resolve. However, treatment can eliminate any new telangiectasia that occurs.
There are several treatment options for telangiectasia.
People can resume regular activity after treatment but should protect treated areas from sunlight until skin color returns to normal.
If blisters, scabs, or scabs occur, it is best to cleanse the skin and apply an antiseptic ointment gently.
A doctor can prescribe an antibiotic, but over-the-counter antibacterial options can also be beneficial.
Due to underlying conditions, people who have telangiectasia can gradually develop new blood vessels.
Conclusions on telangiectasia
Telangiectasias are small, broken, or widened blood vessels near the surface of the skin.
Although they are generally harmless, they can be painful and itchy, and some people want to remove them for cosmetic reasons.
Sometimes telangiectasia can be a symptom of a more serious medical condition that requires treatment.