Spider Veins

Spider veins (telagiectasia) or broken capillaries are small blood vessels near the surface of the skin, which become abnormally dilated. Spider veins are very small, usually 0.5 mm to 3 mm and are considered harmless. They cause no pain or discomfort and pose no risk to one’s health unlike varicose veins, which may be an indicator of something more serious. The biggest problem with spider veins is their unsightly appearance on the face and legs.


Both spider and varicose veins are typically attributed to venous insufficiency. This is a condition in which the vein valves are damaged thus increasing pressure and impairing blood drainage from the leg veins which, in turn leads to the development of spider and/or varicose veins.

Conversely, facial spider veins tend to be smaller and are generally attributed to damage resulting from overexposure to the sun or inflammation from a skin condition such as rosacea (ro-ZER-sha). This combination of damage to vein vessel walls plus extended and excessive dilation can often lead to spider veins on the face.

Among the various causes or factors leading to spider veins are:

  • Age and family history, i.e. heredity, genetics.
  • Changes in hormone levels caused by pregnancy or the onset of menopause. Often, oral hormonal contraceptives can cause or even exacerbate spider veins, particularly those on the legs.
  • Any factor which can lead to increased blood volume and pressure in the legs such as pregnancy, obesity, injury, heavy lifting, and/or extended periods of standing.
  • Prolonged exposure to the sun and/or inflammatory skin diseases, which can increase the likelihood of facial spider veins.
As is typical with many problems, prevention is easier than treatment. You’ll want to pay close attention to risk factors such as age, heredity, and hormone levels. There’s probably very little you can do if you are predisposed to spider veins, but you can minimize behaviors that assist their development. Try to avoid work which will consistently keep you standing on your feet, or lifting heavy objects- particularly if you notice any signs of developing spider and/or varicose veins.