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Telangiectasia

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Vascular ectasias: Spider veins

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:

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.

References

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.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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