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.
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
- Injury or trauma
- Topical steroid use
- Hormonal changes
- 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.
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.
Facial spider veins can appear at any age but peak in the older population. Natural aging is associated with the development of spider veins. Visible facial veins are most often seen in women in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
There are several treatment options offered by qualified dermatologists to treat facial 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.
- Laser therapy, during which a concentrated laser light is targeted at the affected area and slowly destroys the veins. The veins are reabsorbed by the body and fade away.
- 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.
The most vulnerable population
Statistics show that fair skinned women in their 40s and 50s are the most vulnerable population to develop visible facial veins.