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.
Telangiectasias are fine, threadlike lines that may appear blue, red, or purple. The color of these lines will depend on whether they are veins or arteries.
The distorted blood vessels generally measure between 1 and 3 millimeters wide. They are usually asymptomatic but may occur with itching and pain.
They commonly occur on the face, nose, chin, and cheeks, where they may cause facial redness.
Telangiectasias also often appear on the legs, chest, back, and arms. People often refer to those that appear on the legs as spider veins. Spider telangiectasia is telangiectasia that has a red central feeding vessel with outward branches.
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’s 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:
• Alcoholism: 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
• 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
Risk Factors –
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
• misuse alcohol
• are pregnant
• are older or elderly (telangiectases are more likely to form as skin ages)
• have rosacea, scleroderma, dermatomyositis, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
• use corticosteroids
Doctors typically diagnose telangiectasia through a visual assessment of symptoms and by taking a person’s medical history.
The symptoms could indicate a more serious condition. To determine whether they have an underlying medical condition, an individual may need some of the following tests –
• blood tests
• CT scans
• liver function studies
• MRI scans
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)
• Surgery: widened vessels can be removed (this can be very painful and may lead to a long recovery)
• Sclerotherapy: 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 –
• embolization to block or close a blood vessel
• laser therapy to stop bleeding
• Protect your skin from the sun by applying sunscreen, and wearing sunglasses and a hat.
• Use mild cleansers on your skin (such as those without dyes or fragrances).
• Minimize your exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures.
• Avoid using topical steroids.
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