Thread veins on the face

Thread veins or spider veins on the face are extremely common, often associated with ageing and sun exposure.

Facial thread veins do not usually cause any symptoms, but many people seek face vein removal treatments for cosmetic reasons.

Contents

Overview and definitions

Facial veins are usually thread veins on the face, which can also be referred to as spider veins, broken blood vessels, broken capillaries, facial telangiectasia and rosacea veins.

Facial thread veins occur when the tiny veins on the face dilate and become larger and more swollen, so they are visible through the transparency of the skin. They are most common on the nose and cheeks.

They are a different matter to thread veins on the legs, do not require scanning and are best treated by thermocoagulation. ThermaVein® is the brand name of the machine we use at UK Veincentre (UKVC) to perform thermocoagulation, and the terms are often used interchangeably.

Causes

There is no single cause behind thread veins or spider veins on the face. The most common reasons include genetic predisposition, damaged, ageing skin and poor blood circulation. However, there are many other reasons why they may occur, and they can develop at any age.

Risk factors

Whilst there is no definitive cause of dilated face veins, a number of risk factors have been identified:

  • Genetics – if your family members have varicose veins or thread veins, you may be more genetically predisposed to develop them

  • Ageing – as we age, our skin becomes thinner and loses collagen, making veins more visible under the surface of the skin

  • Sun exposure – excessive sun exposure can lead to the dilation of blood vessels, contributing to the development of thread veins. It damages collagen and elastin in the skin, causing veins to surface

  • Skin type – lighter skin types tend to show thread veins more visibly due to the translucency of the skin

  • Environmental damage – prolonged exposure to harsh weather, especially wind and extreme temperatures, can also cause thread veins to appear

  • Lifestyle factors – alcohol consumption can lead to facial thread veins because it dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the skin surface. Additionally, smoking can damage collagen and elastin, causing veins to surface

  • Rosacea – this skin condition can cause facial redness, flushing, swelling and small, visible blood vessels, most commonly on the nose, cheeks and forehead

  • Hormonal changes – hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause can cause thread veins to appear as oestrogen causes vein walls to stretch and valves to weaken

  • Localised steroid use – long-term overuse of topical steroids like hydrocortisone cream on the face (such as to treat eczema) could result in more prominent thread veins due to thinning of the skin

  • Changes in pressure: Sudden, extreme changes in pressure may cause small broken blood vessels to appear. An exceptionally hard sneeze or vomiting can cause this change in pressure

  • Local trauma to the skin – injuries or trauma to the skin can damage blood vessels and contribute to the formation of thread veins

Prevention

Since there is no one definitive cause of visible face veins, it is impossible to prevent them completely, particularly if they run in the family. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing facial thread veins:

  • Avoid extreme temperatures: very high temperatures from spas, saunas, or hot weather may dilate the blood vessels and increase the chances of spider veins appearing

  • Limit sun exposure: wearing SPF sunscreen can help reduce the chances of thread veins from sun damage. It may also help to avoid the sun during peak hours in the middle of the day if living in a hot area

  • Wear protection: protective gear may help avoid thread veins caused by injury. Examples include facemasks and helmets for baseball, cycling, or riding a motorcycle

  • Avoid vasodilators: vasodilators cause vessels to fill with blood and may make face veins more noticeable. Common vasodilators include caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol. Even moderate alcohol drinking can cause redness and broken blood vessels in some people

Symptoms

Whilst thread veins on the face are not dangerous to your health, they can leave patients feeling self-conscious and less confident about their appearance, especially if they are difficult to conceal with makeup.

The impact of facial veins on mental health and emotional wellbeing is one of the main reasons people seek treatment for thread veins on the face.

The following symptoms may also be observed, particularly if the appearance of face veins is linked to rosacea or another skin condition:

  • Irregular skin colour
  • Thickening of skin
  • Skin rashes or blotches
  • Flushing of the face

Diagnosis

Your consultant can usually diagnose thread veins on the face with a visual examination.

Depending on the extent of your facial thread veins, your consultant may need to look at your face from different angles and use a special magnifying glass such as a dermatoscopy to observe them better.

Treatment

Thermocoagulation is the best treatment for thread veins on the face since it is safe, effective and permanent, with instant visible changes.

However, we are unable to treat face veins on the temple and around the eyes at UKVC due to the close proximity of nerves to the surface of the skin in these areas.

Thermocoagulation uses a microscopic needle to penetrate the skin just over the thread vein, administering microwave heat to close it off. You will feel a slight pricking sensation as the needle goes in and as the energy is delivered.

Thermocoagulation is a minimally invasive treatment carried out on an outpatient basis.  Your appointment will usually last around 30 minutes and does not require any recovery time.

While the results of thermocoagulation will be instantly noticeable, the average client requires two sessions for complete removal of facial thread veins.

Microsclerotherapy should not be used to treat facial thread veins. This is due to the small risk that the injected liquid could enter blood vessels that are linked to the eyes or brain. One of the risks of microsclerotherapy is also skin staining, which may last for many months and would appear unsightly on the face.

Treatment costs

Information on the total costs involved in the diagnosis and treatment of facial thread veins is outlined on our self-funded pricing page.

Alternatively, if you have medical insurance, please disregard our self-funding prices and refer to our health insurance page. However, please note that medical insurance rarely funds thread vein treatment, as insurers class thread veins as a cosmetic issue.

Treatment risks

As with all medical procedures, it’s important that you weigh up the benefits of having treatment, versus the risks of side effects. You can find a full list of risks for all our vein treatments on our treatment FAQs page.

Aftercare

You are unlikely to feel any pain following your thermocoagulation facial thread vein removal procedure.

After each treatment session, the treated face veins will disappear instantly, and you can resume your normal activities without restrictions. However, there will be a degree of redness and inflammation around the treated areas. This should settle within a few days, if not hours.

You will be able to drive and resume your normal activities on the same day as your thermocoagulation treatment.

Frequently asked questions

What are thread veins?

Can thread veins disappear on their own?

You can find the answers to these questions and many more in the thread veins section of our conditions FAQs page.

If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us, and a member of our clinic team will be pleased to help.

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