Thread veins

Thread veins are small, red or blue blood vessels which develop on the surface of the skin. They appear on the face and legs and occasionally the cheeks and can inhabit a small or large area of skin.

The medical name for thread veins is 'telangiectases'.

Find out more about them in this section.

Note: thread veins do not usually cause any problems but they can be an indicator of an underlying problem such as poor circulation, blood clot or 'leg pump failure'.

It may be worth undergoing an ultrasound scan to rule out any conditions such as these.

How do thread veins develop?

Thread veins or spider veins (named due to their web like appearance) are formed when tiny blood vessels or capillaries become damaged.

These capillaries are delicate blood vessels which join tiny veins and arteries again as part of the body's vascular system. The walls of the capillaries are thin with minimal muscle fibre which means that they can easily become broken.

Any excess pressure, blockage, blood clot or injury will cause these tiny blood vessels to become enlarged and break out in a jagged pattern underneath the skin. They often resemble the branches of a tree.

These veins develop on the face, legs and nose and are sometimes confused with varicose veins.

Why are thread veins confused with varicose veins?

Thread veins are often associated with varicose veins as it possible to develop both of these. This is even more likely the older you get.

But you can get thread veins without ever developing varicose veins.

Unfortunately, thread veins along with varicose veins are a reminder of the ageing process which reflects the many years you have spent on your feet. Think of them as the end result of all those years spent walking, running or merely standing on your feet.

There is a greater chance of you developing thread veins if you are occupied in a role which requires you to spend a large part of the day on your feet. So if you have a job as a hairdresser, nurse, waiter/waitress or shop assistant then you need to be aware of this increased risk.

This is discussed in more detail in our causes of thread veins section.

Thread veins are small, red, blue or purple coloured veins which look like the branch of a tree and lie just under the surface of the skin. This means that they are very easy to see.

But varicose veins are thick, gnarled bunches which are dark blue or purple in colour and bulge outwards on the skin. They appear as a series of raised knotted cords which commonly develop on the back of the calves or inside the leg.

How common are thread veins?

They are a common problem in the UK. They tend to affect more women than men: around 50% of women will develop thread veins in their lifetime.

Thread veins and varicose veins are amongst the most common vascular problems in the UK.

Thread veins may not look very pleasant but they do not usually cause any health problems. They are usually disliked for aesthetic reasons.

Guide to Thread Veins

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