Author: A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2014.

What is telangiectasia?

Telangiectasia is a condition in which there are visible small linear red blood vessels (broken capillaries). These are also called telangiectases. Visible small blood vessels that are blue in colour (spider veins) are called venulectasia, because venules are involved.

Differential diagnosis of telangiectasia

Telangiectases need to be distinguished from other vascular conditions, including blood vessel tumours such as infantile haemangiomas and angiomas that arise in adults; and capillary or venous vascular malformations.

Large red blood vessels are arteries and large blue blood vessels are veins. Arteries may be enlarged due to aneurysm formation. Veins may be enlarged due to destruction of their valvular system, and are known as varicose veins.

Classification of telangiectasia

Inherited conditions

Acquired telangiectasia

Telangiectasia may follow cutaneous injury. For example:

Some tumours are characterised by telangiectasia, such as:

Certain medications may give rise to telangiectasia.

Treatment of telangiectasia

Telangiectasia is generally harmless. Treatment may be sought because of bleeding or unsightly appearance. Facial red vein treatment methods include:

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