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Spider Angioma

Alternate Names

  • spider vein
  • spider nevi

Definition

A spider angioma is a collection of tiny dilated blood vessels under the skin. The vessels usually radiate out from a central point and resemble the legs of a spider.

What is going on in the body?

A spider angioma is formed when a group of blood vessels dilates in a characteristic "spider leg" pattern. A spider angioma can be seen in a healthy person without any apparent cause, but is more common in individuals with liver disease or altered hormone levels.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

A spider angioma can occur in a healthy person with no apparent cause, and may occasionally be seen on a child's face. However, spider angiomas are more likely to occur in:
  • a pregnant woman
  • a woman taking hormonal therapy, specifically estrogen hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives
  • a person with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Liver disease such as cirrhosis may sometimes be avoided if the person stops drinking alcohol. Spider angioma may be a side effect of estrogen therapy, so could be avoided if the woman does not take estrogen. In persons without these risk factors, prevention is not possible because the cause of the spider angioma is unknown.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

The healthcare professional can diagnose a spider angioma by its characteristic appearance.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

There are no long-term effects of a spider angioma.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Spider angiomas are not contagious, and pose no risk to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Since spider angiomas are harmless, treatment is usually done only for cosmetic purposes. The angioma may be removed by:
  • electrocautery, a procedure in which an electrical current is applied with a needle to seal off the blood vessels
  • laser surgery, which uses a directed laser beam to seal off the vessels

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Removal of a spider angioma may cause bruising, tenderness, focal changes in skin pigment, or tiny scars.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Spider angiomas may reappear, but repeat treatment is usually successful.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

Spider angiomas of childhood and pregnancy will often go away without treatment. No specific monitoring of angiomas is needed.

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