Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Spider Angioma?
Spider angioma is a benign vascular lesion also known by other names such as nevus araneus, spider telangiectasia and vascular spider. It is a collection of dilated blood vessels that are gathered together very near the surface of the skin. It is so termed as spider angioma due to its clinical feature similar to a spider where the core of the lesion is elevated and reddish in color while surrounded by broken blood vessels imitating the appearance of a spider legs.
Spider angioma is a condition characterized by the collection of blood very close to the surface of the skin. It is a benign vascular lesion that is prevalent among children, particularly affecting school age children, and pregnant women. It is more common in women than in women and spider angioma can affect almost everyone and without racial predilection. Spider angioma however, is more obvious in light-skinned individuals. It is a disorder that is rather asymptomatic but can affect even healthy young children while the condition may be associated with liver disease and other underlying condition. Spider angioma is also being associated with pregnancy and intake of oral contraceptives owing to its prevalence among pregnant women and women in childbearing age. It is not a serious and not a life-threatening condition, but it can be disturbing due to its cosmetic effect, especially when it develops in the face and other skin areas that are often exposed.
Spider Angioma Symptoms
Spider angioma resembles that of a spider that it is so termed as spider angioma or spider nevus. It is a form of telangiectasis that has a lesion of about 1mm to 10 mm in diameter. The core of the lesion is somewhat elevated and reddish in color. The elevated core is surrounded by broken blood vessels arranged in an outward manner similar to the spider legs. The elevated core and the manner the broken blood vessels are arranged makes it look like a spider thus, its name spider angioma or spider nevus.
The elevated core of the lesion generally obliterates temporarily when there is compression which is followed by a rapid return of the blood when compression is released. There may also be a presence of pulsation when the core of the lesion is compressed.
Spider angioma is basically asymptomatic and painless while the only symptom is often the appearance of the lesion resembling a spider. The core of the lesion has a raised papule which resulted from the dilatation of the arterioles or the artery when there is an accumulation of blood very near the surface of the skin. Most patients have no complain of signs and symptoms which can be significant to the development of spider angioma. Often, the only symptom is the appearance of the spider like lesion that usually grows in the exposed areas of the skin such as in the face, neck, arms and legs. Spider angioma in children frequently develops at the back of their hands and in their fingers. Aching and burning sensation may also be present although this is uncommon and is often due to a long period of standing. The symptom that may occur on the other hand depends on the area where it developed and its extent.
Spider angioma occurs when there is a presence of abnormality in the small arterioles and vessels located very near the skin. It is not the cause of vascular propagation but a dilatation of the blood vessels for an unknown reason. The exact cause of spider angioma therefore remains unclear although there are several factors considered to trigger the onset.
The incidence of spider angioma is being associated with a liver disease mostly of liver cirrhosis and liver failure. Spider angiomas that occurred with liver disease are found in abundance distributed in different areas of the skin and often have different clinical presentations aside from the development of the lesion. This could be accompanied with splenomegaly, jaundice, and muscle atrophy including clinical presentation of the nails such as longitudinal striations.
Spider angioma is also being linked with hormone particularly of estrogen where an increase level or excessive production. This is being related to the prevalence of spider angioma among pregnant women and women who are taking contraceptive pills. The theory behind the relation of spider angioma and excessive level of estrogen is based on the dilating effect of the hormone in the endometrial arterioles during the process of pregnancy.
Spider angioma generally does not need treatment as it resolves spontaneously. The spider angiomas are found to disappear within six weeks to nine months after the expulsion of pregnancy or after cessation from oral contraceptive pills.
Spider angioma in children is unnecessary for treatment as it usually resolves on its own for some number of years while it may stay permanently for others. Some children tend to outgrow the lesion and may remain unnoticed as the condition is usually asymptomatic or may not cause any discomfort.
The treatment for spider angioma related to a liver disease depends on the type of liver disease that has afflicted the patient. The condition resolves as soon as treatment for the underlying condition is addressed promptly. Spider angioma is also reported to regress after liver transplantation is performed.
Spider angioma is not a serious or life-threatening condition although it can be very unappealing especially if spider angioma develops in areas of the skin that are constantly exposed. Surgery is indicated for cosmetic purposes. The aim of surgical treatment is to permanently remove the lesion although it may take a few sessions of treatment before it can fade completely.
- Electrocautery is a procedure that utilizes a specialized instrument with the intention of cauterizing the small arterioles. It destroys the small arterioles by conducting heat to destroy the tissue with the help of a heated metal probe.
- Laser therapy is a common procedure for removing spider angioma. This therapy makes the lesion fade away through the use of a specialize instrument with the intention of removing the spider angioma through the heat it emits.
Regardless of the surgical procedure that may be done, spider angioma may tend to recur that a repeat procedure is necessary before it can be removed totally or permanently.