Telangiectasias are small, broken, or widened blood vessels found near the surface of the skin or mucous membranes.
They typically appear as fine pink or red lines and will whiten when under pressure. Once the telangiectasia appears on the skin, the tiny lines can range in color from red through blue and purple.
Telangiectasias typically measure between 1 and 3 millimeters in width. They are usually harmless but can cause itching and be painful because of pressure on the small veins.
Telangiectasias commonly occur on the face, nose, chin, and cheek. Facial redness caused by telangiectasias on the face are due to broken blood vessels or spider veins in the face.
Telangiectasias are also found on the legs, chest, back, arms, and legs. Those that appear on the legs are referred to as spider veins. A spider telangiectasia is a telangiectasia with a red, central feeding vessel and outward branches.
Telangiectasias tend to be more of an image concern than a health issue. However, they can be a sign of more severe health problems.
Causes of a telangiectasia
Telangiectasias often occur on the body of fair-skinned individuals who have long-term sun damage. They can appear anywhere on the body, but are seen most clearly on the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes.
In most cases, telangiectasias do not cause any symptoms. Telangiectasias can bleed and cause problems in some cases, however. They may also occur in the brain area and cause serious problems from bleeding.
In many cases, the exact cause of telangiectasia is unknown.
There are several factors which can lead toward the development of telangiectasia. These include:
- Sun and wind exposure
- Medications that widen blood vessels
- Excessive alcohol use
- Trauma to the skin
- Surgical incisions
- Prolonged use of oral or topical corticosteroids
Pregnant women are prone to the condition. As the body grows, a significant amount of pressure is put on the blood vessels.
As individuals age, the blood vessels start to weaken, and a telangiectasia can occur.
Diseases associated with telangiectasias
Telangiectasia can sometimes precede a more serious disease or medical condition, including:
- Ataxia telangiectasia – an inherited childhood disease that affects the brain and other parts of the body
- Bloom syndrome
- Cutis marmorata telangiectatica congenita
- Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome
- Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome
- Port-wine stain
- Spider angioma – an abnormal collection of blood vessels near the surface of the skin
- Sturge-Weber disease – a rare disorder that can cause nervous system problems
- Xeroderma pigmentosum – a rare medical condition where the skin and eyes are very sensitive to the ultraviolet light
- Liver disease
Connective tissue diseases
Connective tissue diseases can cause telangiectasia to develop on the face and the area where the skin meets the nail.
- Scleroderma: Limitedscleroderma primarily affects the facial skin, hands, and feet. Diffuse scleroderma quickly affects the internal organs as well as the skin. Telangiectasias more frequently affect patients with limited scleroderma.
- Dermatomyositis: Telangiectasia affects sun-exposed areas of skin, such as areas of the neck and chest, or in the shoulder, arm, and upper back area.
- Lupus: Telangiectasia of the nail folds can occur in people withlupus. It can also occur on the edges of lesions of discoid lupus.
Diagnosis of a telangiectasia
Telangiectasia is common in healthy people and is generally a result of sun damage or aging.
Those experiencing severe cases of telangiectasia throughout the body or vessels that are severely enlarged should consult a doctor.
People should seek treatment right away if there is:
- A family history of telangiectasia
- Any bleeding or lesions in the mouth or eye area
These symptoms could be signs of a more serious condition.
To determine if there is an underlying medical condition present, an individual may undergo some of the following tests:
- Blood tests
- CT scans
- Liver function studies
Treatment for a telangiectasia
There is no outright cure for a telangiectasia, but they are treatable. The test results for a telangiectasia will determine the best treatment option.
Laser treatment and a burning process can be used to treat the appearance of telangiectasia. During laser ablation, the widened blood vessels are sealed. This procedure does not cause much pain and has a short recovery time.
Surgery can remove widened blood vessels but has a longer recovery period. Surgery can also be quite painful.
Sclerotherapy is the common treatment for telangiectasias on the legs. It is a minimally invasive procedure where salt water or a chemical solution is injected into the vein. It then hardens and disappears.
A dermatologist performs the procedure, and one injection is used for each inch of vein. Depending on the case, a person may need between five to 50 injections.
This treatment is given in an outpatient setting. It is low-cost and requires no recovery or anesthesia. It is a good treatment option for facial spider veins that may be larger than regular broken capillaries.
Many people decide to have their telangiectasias removed not only due to discomfort but because they are not attractive looking.
Laser therapy is minimally invasive and is generally the most efficient treatment for facial telangiectasia and broken capillaries. It is often the treatment of choice for the face, but can be used to treat other parts of the body.
VeinWave is a new product introduced to treat spider veins everywhere on the body. It can treat the veins that are too small for sclerotherapy and laser therapy.
Life after treatment
Individuals can resume normal activity after treatment. People should protect the treated areas from sunlight until the skin color in that area returns to normal. They should gently cleanse the skin and apply antibiotic ointment if blistering, crusting, or scabbing is seen. Some individuals may be prescribed an antibiotic, but non-prescription options also work.
Those who have telangiectasias due to underlying conditions may gradually develop new blood vessels.
Some causes of telangiectasia are not correctable. Regular treatment will get rid of any new telangiectasias that pop up. With proper treatment, especially for underlying conditions, a telangiectasia is treatable, and patients can lead a normal life.
Written by Brian Wu