Telangiectasia is a condition in
which widened venules (tiny blood vessels) cause threadlike red lines or
patterns on the skin. These patterns, or telangiectases, form gradually and often
in clusters. They’re sometimes known as “spider veins” because of their fine
and weblike appearance.
Telangiectases are common in
areas that are easily seen (such as the lips, nose, eyes, fingers, and cheeks).
They can cause discomfort and some people find them unattractive. Many people
choose to have them removed. Removal is done by causing damage to the vessel
and forcing it to collapse or scar. This reduces the appearance of the red
marks or patterns on the skin.
While telangiectases are usually benign, they can be a
sign of serious illness. For example, hereditary hemorrhagic
telangiectasia (HHT) is a rare genetic condition that causes telangiectases that
can be life-threatening. Instead of forming on the skin, telangiectases caused
by HHT appear in vital organs, such as the liver. They may burst, causing
massive bleeding (hemorrhages).
Recognizing the Symptoms of Telangiectasia
Telangiectases can be
uncomfortable. They are generally not life-threatening, but some people may not
like how they look. They develop gradually, but can be worsened by health and
beauty products that cause skin irritation, such as abrasive soaps and sponges.
(related to pressure on venules)
- threadlike red
marks or patterns on the skin
The symptoms of HHT include:
- red or dark
black blood in stools
- shortness of
What Are the Causes of Telangiectasia?
The exact cause of telangiectasia is unknown. Researchers
believe several causes may contribute to the development of telangiectases.
These causes may be genetic, environmental, or a combination of both. It is
believed that most cases of telangiectasia
are caused by chronic exposure to the sun or extreme temperatures. This
is because they usually appear on the body where skin is often exposed to
sunlight and air.
Other possible causes include:
this can affect the flow of blood in vessels and can cause liver disease
pregnancy often applies large amounts of pressure on venules
- aging: aging
blood vessels can begin to weaken
- rosacea: enlarges
venules in the face, creating a flushed appearance in cheeks and nose
corticosteroid use: thins and weakens the skin
hardens and contracts the skin
inflames skin and underlying muscle tissue
lupus erythematosus: can increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and extreme
The causes of hereditary
hemorrhagic telangiectasia are genetic. People with HHT inherit the disease
from at least one parent. Five genes are suspected to cause HHT, and three are
known. People with HHT receive either one normal gene and one mutated gene or
two mutated genes (it only takes one mutated gene to cause HHT).
Who Is at Risk of Contracting Telangiectasia?
Telangiectasia is a common skin
disorder, even among healthy people. However, certain people are more at risk
of developing telangiectases than others. This includes those who:
- work outdoors
- sit or stand all day
- suffer from alcoholism
- are pregnant
- are older or elderly (telangiectases are more
likely to form as skin ages)
- have rosacea, scleroderma, dermatomyositis,
or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- corticosteroid use
How Do Doctors Diagnose Telangiectasia?
Doctors may rely on the clinical
signs of the disease. Telangiectasia is easily visible from the threadlike red lines
or patterns on the skin. In some cases, doctors may want to make sure that there
is no underlying disorder. Diseases associated with telangiectasia include:
- HHT (also
called Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome): an inherited disorder of the blood vessels in
skin and internal organs that can cause excessive bleeding
disease: a rare disorder that causes a port-wine stain birthmark and nervous
angiomas: an abnormal collection of blood vessels near the surface of the skin
pigmentosa: a rare condition in which the skin and eyes are extremely sensitive
to ultraviolet light
HHT may cause the formation of
abnormal blood vessels called arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). These may
occur in several areas of the body. These AVMs allow direct connection between
arteries and veins without intervening capillaries. This 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
Treatment of Telangiectasia
Treatment focuses on improving
the appearance of the skin. Different methods include:
- laser therapy:
laser targets the widened vessel and seals it (this usually involves little
pain and has a short recovery period)
widened vessels can be removed (this can be very painful and may need a long
focuses on causing damage to the inner lining of the blood vessel by injecting
it with a chemical solution that causes a blood clot that collapses, thickens,
or scars the venule (there’s usually no recovery needed, although there may be some
temporary exercise restrictions)
Treatment for HHT may include:
(a procedure to block or close a blood vessel)
therapy to stop bleeding
What Is the Outlook for Telangiectasia?
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.