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Simply put, Telangiectasia is the clinical name for spider veins or“broken capillaries.” It afflicts many, many people. In fact, two out of three women over the age of 30 have the appearance of blood vessels just below the surface of the skin. They can develop anywhere on the body but are most commonly seen on the face, around the nose, cheeks, and chin. They can also develop on the legs, specifically on the upper thigh, below the knee joint, and around the ankles. So how do you pronounce it anyway? Listen here.
Telangiectasia or broken capillaries are the abnormal dilation of red, blue, and purple capillaries (tiny blood vessels) localized just below the skin’s surface. Simply put your vein walls dilate, either from pressure or weakness, and become noticeable. And sometimes blood leaks from these vessels and pools, creating a bruising effect.
Causes of Telangiectasia
As we know, genetics pre-dispose us to many things, including Telangiectasia. But, broken capillaries also occur and re-cur due to other internal and external sources.
Internal sources include:
- High Blood Pressure
Then, certain lifestyle choices worsen these internal causes. Examples of these are:
- Free Radicals (and anything that raises free radicals because free radicals cause damage to the collagen cells that keep the walls of the vessels strong and healthy)
- Sun Exposure
- Tanning (either from direct sun exposure or tanning beds)
- Constant blowing of nose
These contribute to the damage of the vessel walls thereby causing a loss of ability for the vessels to shrink back down to normal size. Thus, laser treatments coupled with home maintenance and lifestyle changes, are necessary for maximum long term results. (Sorry, no miracle cure here!)
When it comes to telangiectasia, topical products can only do so much and are best used in conjunction with laser treatment. Thus far, there is little scientific support for topical treatments; though some well-researched ingredients have been shown to improve skin elasticity and resilience — like coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone), copper peptides, and niacinamide (Vitamin B3) — and may help diminish the appearance of broken capillaries.
Holistic R.N., and licensed esthetician Geraldine Macenski from the Dana Hotel Spa loves alpha lipoic acid (ALA), not only for prevention but maintenance of Telangiectasia. “ALA is an antioxidant that works synergistically with other antioxidants in the skin to reduce the inflammatory effects of UV exposure by neutralizing free radicals,” said Geraldine.
What makes alpha lipoic acid unique is that it functions in water and fatty tissues, meaning it can work throughout the body, unlike antioxidant vitamins C and E. It also has the ability to recycle or re-potentiate antioxidants such as vitamin C after they have been used up. ALA’s capacity to regulate production of nitric oxide, which controls blood flow to the skin when applied topically, helps to transform the complexion from dull and pasty to vibrant and glowing.
Geraldine also recommends products containing DMAE, like those found in the Perricone MD product line. DMAE or dimethylaminoethenol, is an anti-inflammatory nutrient occurring naturally in the human brain that protects us from free radicals, improves muscle tone, and stabilizes cell membranes. The most significant science I found on DMAE said the primary benefit of topical application is skin firming, which could potentially over time help diminish the appearance of broken capillaries. DMAE has also been clinically shown to significantly improve other visible signs of aging — bonus!
What’s more, products containing anti-inflammatory ingredients like green tea and red and brown algae, could potentially reduce excessive blood flow to the affected areas, making facial spider veins less obvious; but this would only work for very small veins. Once veins are dark red or purple — or have been there for several months or — they usually require laser treatment to make them less obvious.
We recommend Perricone MD Advanced Face Firming Activator, which contains alpha lipoic acid.
Lasers Work Best
The upside of laser treatments includes better, faster and more long-term results and clinical studies on efficacy and safety. There are many different types of lasers (i.e., YAG, IPL, Diode, VBeam) used to treat broken capillaries and a laser certified specialist will know which one is right for you based on your skin type.
For example, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is frequently used to diffuse redness and facial telangiectasia. Recent studies have shown that IPL also helps reduce heightened levels of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) in rosacea patients, thus hindering new vascular growth. But IPL scatters its light energy and can create unwanted reactions like transient hypopigmentation.
Is there a Cure?
No, you cannot “cure” Telangiectasia, because, although you can treat it by shutting down the blood vessel(s) in question, the body likes to “repair” itself by forming what is known as collaterals or new blood vessels to compensate for those you shut down. Thus, treating broken capillaries requires maintenance on your part. Skin care experts often give their patients “homework” of:
- A Topical Antioxidant (like ALA or Vitamin C)
- Physical Defense Sunblock (Titanium Dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide)
- Topical Collagen
And, laser treatment typically requires multiple visits, with healing time of 4-8 weeks between treatments. Don’t let anyone tell you they can fix it with one treatment and you’re done. This is virtually impossible (i.e., find another practitioner!).
See Your Doctor
Every state has their own guidelines for who can and cannot perform laser treatments so your best bet is to see a plastic surgeon or dermatologist who has been laser certified. I also suggest asking for references, two to three patients that you can speak to privately about their experience, results, etc.
Costs vary as some professionals charge per pulse (that is laser pulse) while others charge based on time spent. Expect to spend about 30 minutes per treatment session and a minimum of $175 per treatment depending on where you live (major metropolitan areas may see significantly higher costs per treatment).
Contributing author: Leah Argento