Spider Veins (Telangiectasia)

Spider veins (telangiectasia) can develop in anyone and are frequently seen on the legs. These markings are small, widened blood vessels that are visible just under the skin. They often appear on the legs but can develop anywhere on the body.

For most people, telangiectasia is a purely cosmetic issue that does not pose any real health threat. In this article, you will learn of the symptoms of spider veins, why they occur, and when you might experience complications or more severe problems. You will also learn what to do if your telangiectasia is serious enough to require treatment.

A woman's legs with varicose veins and spider veins

Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman / Getty Images

Symptoms of Telangiectasia

Telangiectasia is usually a painless condition, but in some cases, you might notice symptoms like pain or soreness. Spider veins can develop anywhere but are most common on the legs. They can have a winding or looped appearance and range in color from pink or red to blue and purple. These web-like markings usually appear a millimeter or less under the skin.

Although telangiectasia is referred to as spider veins, the condition can occur in both veins and arteries. Most adults will develop these marks at some point in their life, but they appear most often between the ages of 30 and 50. Many studies note a higher likelihood of spider vein development in women, with one study reporting that women are 4 times more likely than men to be affected by telangiectasia—especially women with higher numbers of pregnancies.

In rare cases, these superficial blood vessels may break through the skin and cause bleeding, but for most people, spider veins are a purely cosmetic problem. With one form of telangiectasia in particular called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) or Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome, vein malformations are inherited and can cause other problems throughout the body like:

Causes of Telangiectasia

Although some forms of telangiectasia can be inherited, the condition is usually associated with:

  • Increasing age
  • Rosacea
  • Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Sun exposure
  • Use of steroid creams
  • Trauma or injury
  • Varicose veins

While some people may assume they have vein disease if they develop telangiectasia, less than 25% of people with spider veins are diagnosed with venous incompetence or weakened veins.

Telangiectasia is also linked to several other conditions, either as a subgroup or symptom, such as:

In addition to conditions that cause telangiectasia or include spider veins as a symptom, spider veins may also signal the existence of other systemic problems like rheumatoid arthritis, liver problems, and thyroid disease.

What Medications Can Cause Telangiectasia?

Some medications may increase your risk of developing spider veins, including:

Medications that increase your blood flow or pressure can also have an impact.

How to Treat Telangiectasia

Telangiectasia doesn't always need to be treated. If you have no pain, soreness, bleeding, or other complications, you may choose not to do anything about your spider veins. If their appearance bothers you, however, there are several options, such as:

  • Laser Therapy: There are several options for laser therapy, and your healthcare provider can suggest the right type of laser treatment for you depending on the size and location of your telangiectasia.
  • Physical removal: Smaller spider veins can be removed with a tiny hooked extractor during a procedure called microphlebectomy. There are other types of phlebectomy that can be used for other sizes of veins, like varicose veins.
  • Heat: Thermocoagulation uses heat to seal off the damaged vessel that makes spider veins appear, and the vessel eventually dies away and is absorbed by the body.
  • Sclerotherapy: Sclerotherapy usually combines several techniques. Medication that causes the damaged blood vessel to shrink is injected into the affected areas, and then the vessels may be removed with phlebectomy or left to be reabsorbed by the body.

Topical creams and over-the-counter (OTC, nonprescription) ointments are not effective in removing telangiectasia.

Complications and Risk Factors Associated With Telangiectasia

There are very few complications linked to simple telangiectasia outside of the cosmetic effects. Different forms of the condition, like HHT, can lead to other bleeding problems, but these are rare.

Although most people develop spider veins at some point in their life, there are several risk factors that may increase your chances of seeing these markings, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise or activity

Widespread telangiectasia or spider veins that affect larger vessels can also lead to complications like the development of sores or ulcers.

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Telangiectasia?

To figure out the cause of your telangiectasia, your healthcare provider may perform a number of tests to rule out any other medical conditions, including:

A physical examination, Doppler ultrasound, and a blood vessel test called plethysmography can also be helpful in both diagnosing and treating telangiectasia.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you develop a spider vein and the appearance is bothering you, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment. If you notice enlarged vessels—especially in areas like the eye—or bleeding from any spider veins, make an appointment with your healthcare provider right away. This could be a signal of more extensive vein problems or even systemic diseases affecting more than one area of the body.


Telangiectasia refers to spider veins and is usually not a dangerous condition. In severe cases, sores may develop, and some forms of the condition may have more widespread effects. Most of the time, though, spider veins only create cosmetic problems and treatment isn't always necessary.

A Word From Verywell

Spider veins, or telangiectasia, can be embarrassing or bothersome, but they don't often cause serious health problems. You can choose to have your healthcare provider treat your telangiectasia with options like laser therapy, but this is usually only done when the spider veins progress to create sores or problems with bleeding.

Talk to your provider if you have telangiectasia and are interested in having it removed. Over-the-counter treatments and home remedies are not effective in treating spider veins, although you can take steps to try to prevent them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is telangiectasia serious?

    Telangiectasia rarely causes serious health problems. Symptoms associated with this condition are usually cosmetic or involve mild pain and soreness.

  • Can telangiectasia be cured?

    Laser treatments and other therapies are very effective when it comes to treating telangiectasia, and you may even see results instantly. It is possible, however, for spider veins to return in other spots or new locations if you are prone to developing them.

  • Can telangiectasia be prevented?

    Some people have a genetic predisposition to developing spider veins, but factors like weight loss, regular exercise, and the use of compression stockings may help.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Telangiectasia.

  2. Sandean DP, Winters R. Spider veins. StatPearls.

  3. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia.

  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Leg veins: Why they appear and how dermatologists treat them.

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.