What Is Spider Angioma?

Spider angiomas (spider naevus or spider telangiectasia) are benign lesions that get their name based on their spiderlike appearance. Spider angiomas contain a body, legs, and surrounding reddened patches of skin caused by dilation of the capillaries. They are common and can occur in adults and children.

Learn more about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of spider angiomas.

A woman getting a laser treatment on her face

Ksenia Ershova / Getty Images

Spider Angioma Symptoms

Unless there is an underlying health condition associated with the angioma (such as liver disease), there are no symptoms except its physical appearance.

A spider angioma is a painless lesion with a central red or purple dot in the center (averaging in size from about 1–10 millimeters). They can be found on the upper arms, face, chest, and neck.

Children commonly have them on the upper extremities, such as the arms, backs of hands, and fingers. They can also occur on the neck and trunk. On rare occasions, they'll bleed, usually when they are picked or if they have experienced trauma.

Causes

Spider angiomas occur when a small cluster of blood vessels comes to the skin's surface. Some children are born with them, while others develop them later in life.

Multiple spider angiomas can result from an underlying issue, such as liver cirrhosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyrotoxicosis (excess thyroid hormones in the body).

In people with cirrhosis of the liver, spider angiomas develop due to a multitude of factors, such as:

  • A disturbance of sex hormones
  • Angiogenesis (new blood vessels that support tissue growth)
  • Vasodilation (blood vessel dilatation)
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Liver dysfunction

Estrogen can contribute to the development of spider angiomas, which is why the condition is more common in people taking oral contraceptives and during pregnancy.

Diagnosis

Due to its distinct features, a spider angioma can be identified to the eye; a healthcare provider or dermatologist can diagnose it. They rarely need to be biopsied (removing a sample tissue for analysis in a lab). However, you should get evaluated for underlying health conditions if you have more than a few.

If your healthcare provider suspects that your spider angiomas are due to liver disease, they may conduct blood tests to confirm. People with liver cirrhosis and spider angiomas have elevated vascular endothelial growth factor levels.

Treatment

Depending on the size, spider angiomas can go away on their own. Children and adolescents with spider angiomas may see them resolve once they go through puberty. Pregnant women may see them disappear after they give birth.

Spider angiomas that are caused by an underlying health condition may go away once that condition is treated. If your spider angiomas are persistent and you want to have them removed, you can speak to your healthcare provider about options like laser removal or electrodesiccation (a process of drying tissue using an electrode that transmits high-frequency electrical currents).

Prognosis

The prognosis is excellent unless the spider angioma is associated with end-stage liver disease. It has been noted that spider angiomas can go away after liver transplantation.

Coping

People with spider angiomas may not like how they appear aesthetically and choose to have them removed due to their appearance. If your spider angiomas are due to an underlying condition, treatment of that condition will be necessary. Once your condition is managed, the angiomas often go away.

Learning how to cope with a new situation can be difficult, but working with your medical team and finding support can ease the burden.

Do Spider Angiomas Go Away?

In many cases, spider angiomas will go away on their own. You can also choose to have them removed, but this can leave a scar. And sometimes, they can recur. It's always a good idea to have them examined, especially if you have multiple and they are persistent. In rare instances, they can be an indication of skin cancer.

What Stage of Liver Disease Is a Spider Angioma?

Spider angiomas are commonly associated with alcoholism, impaired liver function, alcoholic hepatitis, and hepatopulmonary syndrome (a condition that affects the lungs during advanced liver disease). The stage of liver disease in which spider angiomas appear is not entirely clear. However, size and number can give a better indication of the severity of the disease.

The reported prevalence of spider angiomas in people with cirrhosis of the liver is 33%. People with spider angiomas and liver disease will likely experience symptoms of the disease, including jaundice, fluid retention, and confusion.

Summary

Spider angiomas are common skin lesions that get their name due to their spiderlike appearance. Most of the time, they are harmless and will go away on their own. However, if you have multiple spider angiomas and are experiencing other symptoms, such as yellowing of your skin (jaundice) and fluid retention, they can indicate liver disease.

Other contributing factors, such as liver cirrhosis, autoimmune disease, and in rare instances, skin cancer, warrant medical diagnosis and treatment of the underlying condition. When in doubt, make an appointment with your medical team to be evaluated.

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. Detry O, De Roover A. Spider angiomasNew England Journal of Medicine. 2009;360(3):280-280.

  2. MedlinePlus. Spider angioma.

  3. Li H, Wang R, Méndez-Sánchez N, Peng Y, Guo X, Qi X. Impact of spider nevus and subcutaneous collateral vessel of chest/abdominal wall on outcomes of liver cirrhosis. Arch Med Sci. 2019;15(2):434-448. doi:10.5114/aoms.2018.74788

  4. Fitzpatrick J, Prok L. Dermatologic manifestations of gastrointestinal disease. 2010: 464-469. doi:10.1016/B978-0-323-06397-5.00065-4

By Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN
Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.