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Facial Veins

The causes of spider veins on the face may differ from the causes on the legs or other areas.

Have you overdone your time in the sun? If you have gotten one too many sunburns or have lighter skin, you may suffer from facial spider veins. These tiny webs of blue, red or purple blood vessels in your face are sometimes referred to as “broken capillaries,” though they’re simply enlarged, not broken. Either way, spider veins on your face are unsightly and difficult to cover up. How did they get there and what can you do to get rid of them?

What Causes Spider Veins?

Spider veins on your face can be triggered by pregnancy or too much sun exposure, but they also may simply be a result of genetics. Facial spider veins don’t stem from varicose veins as they sometimes do in the legs and generally don’t indicate other vein problems. They are usually treated for cosmetic reasons only. If yours aren’t hereditary, they can be caused by anything that dilates the blood vessels and also weakens the collagen in the surrounding tissue, such as aging, oral contraceptives, hormone therapy or inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea. Weakened veins lose their ability to shrink back down to a normal size after dilation, making those squiggly lines permanent and more visible.

How a Specialist Can Help

A vein specialist can treat facial spider veins using either sclerotherapy or broad band light (BBL) also known as IPL. Larger blue veins are commonly seen around the eyes or on the forehead and are more noticeable after a workout or when one is in the heat. These vein can be treated as well and generally respond very well. Regardless of the vein size, the vein is closed by irreversibly damaging the inner lining of the vein either with a chemical (sclerotherapy) or with heat (light or laser therapy).

Facial Veins: Which Factors Play a Role?

Small, visible veins are called spider veins. Spider veins are most common on the legs but are also frequently seen on the face. They most often appear on the cheeks and nose. They are seen as a red or purple web-like patterns on the surface of the skin. Many patients do not like the appearance of spider veins on their face and choose from a variety of different treatments to remove them.

The Anatomy of Facial Veins

Spider veins are dilated capillaries supplied by an arteriole. Facial telangiectasia or facial spider veins vary in size. They are usually tiny, with a diameter of 1 mm or less, and can appear as singular veins or as a small grouping of veins.

Facial telangiectasia has the appearance of a spider. The arteriole presents like a central dot or the body of a spider and the thin red capillary lines radiate out from the dot like legs. Sometimes the capillaries are so small that they are visible only as a generalized redness on the skin.
They are a painless entity unless associated with rosacea, which can carry an accompanying burning sensation.

Causes of Spider Veins

There are many causes of spider veins on the face, including:

  • Sun exposure is a primary cause of facial spider veins
  • Injury or trauma
  • Rosacea
  • Topical steroid use
  • Hormonal changes
  • Age
  • Heredity
  • Liver disease
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Autoimmune diseases like lupus
  • Being female

It is interesting to note that spider veins affect women four times more often than men.

Two characteristics in particular impact the development of facial spider veins: skin color and age.

Skin Color

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fair skinned people are subject to developing spider veins on their cheeks and/or nose after sun exposure. The most affected segment of fair skinned people is women.

The Most Vulnerable Population

Facial spider veins can appear at any age but peak in the older population . Statistics show that fair skinned women in their forties and fifties are the most vulnerable population to develop visible facial veins.

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options offered by vein specialists to treat facial telangiectasia (spider veins).

Sclerotherapy, in which the vein is injected with a sclerosant that irritates the vein, causes it to collapse and be reabsorbed by the body.

Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) is performed in a similar manner to the laser treatment but uses a different light source, a broadband light, to destroy the veins.

Several treatment sessions, about four to eight weeks apart, are usually needed to attain the best results.