Vascular ectasias: Spider veins

Telangiectasias are small, widened blood vessels on the skin. They are usually harmless, but may be associated with several diseases.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • Considerations

    Telangiectasias may develop anywhere within the body. But they are most easily seen on the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes. Usually, they do not cause symptoms. Some telangiectasias bleed and cause significant problems. Telangiectasias may also occur in the brain and cause major problems from bleeding.

  • Causes

    Causes may include:

    • Alcohol use (related to rosacea)
    • Aging
    • Genetics
    • Pregnancy
    • Sun exposure

    Diseases associated with this condition include:

    • Ataxia - telangiectasia
    • Bloom syndrome
    • Cutis marmorata telangiectatica congenita
    • Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome)
    • Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome
    • Nevus flammeus such as port-wine stain
    • Rosacea
    • Spider angioma
    • Sturge-Weber disease
    • Xeroderma pigmentosa
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if you notice enlarged vessels in the skin, mucous membranes, or eyes.

  • What to Expect at Your Office Visit

    The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about the symptoms, including:

    • Where are the blood vessels located?
    • Do they bleed easily and without reason?
    • What other symptoms are present?

    Tests may be needed to diagnose or rule out a medical condition. Such tests may include:

    • Blood tests
    • CT scans
    • Liver function studies
    • MRI scans
    • X-rays

    Sclerotherapy is the treatment for telangectasias on the legs. Laser treatment is typically used to treat telangectasias of the face.

Related Information



James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 35.

Kelly R, Baker C. Other vascular disorders. In: In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 106.


Review Date: 5/15/2013  

Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team.

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