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Classification and external resources
ICD-10 G11.3, I78.0, M34.1
ICD-9 362.15, 448.0
DiseasesDB 27395
MedlinePlus 003284
MeSH D013684

Telangiectasias /tɛlˌæn..ɛkˈt.zi.ə/ or angioectasias (also known as spider veins) are small dilated blood vessels[1] near the surface of the skin or mucous membranes, measuring between 0.5 and 1 millimeter in diameter.[2] They can develop anywhere on the body but are commonly seen on the face around the nose, cheeks, and chin. They can also develop on the legs, specifically on the upper thigh, below the knee joint, and around the ankles. Many patients who suffer with spider veins seek the assistance of physicians who specialize in vein care or peripheral vascular disease. These physicians are called phlebologists or interventional radiologists.

Some telangiectasia are due to developmental abnormalities that can closely mimic the behaviour of benign vascular neoplasms. They may be composed of abnormal aggregations of arterioles, capillaries, or venules. Because telangiectasias are vascular lesions, they blanch when tested with diascopy.

Telangiectasia is a component of the CREST variant of scleroderma (CREST is an acronym that stands for calcinosis, Raynaud's phenomenon, esophageal dysmotility, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasia.)


The causes of telangiectasia can be divided into congenital and acquired factors.

Congenital causes[edit]

Goldman states that "numerous inherited or congenital conditions display cutaneous telangiectasia".[2] These include:

Acquired causes[edit]

Venous hypertension[edit]

Telangiectasia in the legs is often related to the presence of venous hypertension within underlying varicose veins. Flow abnormalities within the medium-sized veins of the leg (reticular veins) can also lead to the development of telangiectasia. Factors that predispose to the development of varicose and telangiectatic leg veins include

  • Age: The development of spider veins may occur at any age but usually occurs between 18 and 35 years, and peaks between 50 and 60 years.[citation needed]
  • Gender: Females are affected approximately four to one to males.[citation needed]
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy is a key factor contributing to the formation of varicose and spider veins. The most important factor is circulating hormones that weaken vein walls. There's also a significant increase in the blood volume during pregnancy, which tends to distend veins, causing valve dysfunction which leads to blood pooling in the veins. Moreover, later in pregnancy, the enlarged uterus can compress veins, causing higher vein pressure leading to dilated veins. Varicose veins that form during pregnancy may spontaneously improve or even disappear a few months after delivery.[citation needed]
  • Lifestyle/Occupation: Those who are involved with prolonged sitting or standing in their daily activities have an increased risk of developing varicose veins. The weight of the blood continuously pressing against the closed valves causes them to fail, leading to vein distention.[citation needed]

Other acquired causes[edit]

Acquired telangiectasia, not related to other venous abnormalities, for example on the face and trunk, can be caused by factors such as


Sclerotherapy is the "gold standard" and is preferred over laser for eliminating telangiectasiae and smaller varicose leg veins.[5] A sclerosant medication is injected into the diseased vein so it hardens and eventually shrinks away. Recent evidence with foam sclerotherapy shows that the foam containing the irritating sclerosant quickly appears in the patient's heart and lungs, and then in some cases travels through a patent foramen ovale to the brain.[6] This has led to concerns about the safety of sclerotherapy for telangectasias and spider veins. In some cases stroke and transient ischemic attacks have occurred after sclerotherapy.[7] Varicose veins and reticular veins are often treated before treating telangiectasia, although treatment of these larger veins in advance of sclerotherapy for telangiectasia may not guarantee better results.[8][9][10] Varicose veins can be treated with foam sclerotherapy, endovenous laser treatment, radiofrequency ablation or open surgery. The biggest risk, however, seems to occur with sclerotherapy, especially in terms of systemic risk of DVT, pulmonary embolism, and stroke.

Another issue that arises with the use of sclerotherapy to treat spider veins is staining, shadowing, telangetatic matting and ulceration. In addition, incompleteness of therapy is common, requiring multiple treatment sessions.

Telangiectasias on the face are often treated with a laser. Laser therapy uses a light beam that is pulsed onto the veins in order to seal them off, causing them to dissolve. These light-based treatments require adequate heating of the veins. These treatments can result in the destruction of sweat glands, and the risk increases with the number of treatments.


  1. ^ "telangiectasia" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^ a b Goldman, Mitchel P (1995). Sclerotherapy treatment of varicose and telangiectatic leg veins (2nd ed.). St. Louis: Mosby. ISBN 0-8151-4011-8. 
  3. ^ Lindsey K, Matsumara S, Hatel E, Akpek EK (2012). "Interventions for chronic blepharitis". Cochrane Database Syst Rev 5: CD00556. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD00556.pub2. PMID 22592706. 
  4. ^ Johnson BA, Nunley JR (May 2000). "Treatment of seborrheic dermatitis". Am Fam Physician 61 (9): 2703–10, 2713–4. PMID 10821151. 
  5. ^ Sadick N, Sorhaindo L (2007). "16. Laser Treatment of Telangiectatic and Reticular Veins". In Bergan, John J. The Vein Book. Amsterdam: Elsevier Academic Press. p. 157. ISBN 0-12-369515-5. 
  6. ^ Ceulen RP, Sommer A, Vernooy K (April 2008). "Microembolism during foam sclerotherapy of varicose veins". N. Engl. J. Med. 358 (14): 1525–6. doi:10.1056/NEJMc0707265. PMID 18385510. 
  7. ^ Forlee MV, Grouden M, Moore DJ, Shanik G (January 2006). "Stroke after varicose vein foam injection sclerotherapy". J. Vasc. Surg. 43 (1): 162–4. doi:10.1016/j.jvs.2005.09.032. PMID 16414404. 
  8. ^ Duffy DM Sclerotherapy for Telangiectasia – The impact of small changes in vessel size on treatment outcomes. Cosmetic Dermatology March 2012. Vol. 25, No. 3.
  9. ^ Treatment of Leg Veins. Procedures in Cosmetic Dermatology Series. Editors Murad Alam, Sirunya Silapunt. Second Edition Saunders Elsevier Inc. 2011
  10. ^ Schuller-Petrovic S, Pavlovic MD, Schuller S, Schuller-Lukic B, Adamic M. Telangiectasias resistant to sclerotherapy are commonly connected to a perforating vessel. Phlebology. 2013;28(6):320-3.

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