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Spider Angiomas

(Nevus Araneus; Spider Nevus; Vascular Spider)

By Denise M. Aaron, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery; Staff Physician, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; Veterans Administration Medical Center, White River Junction

Spider angiomas are small, bright-red spots consisting of a central dilated blood vessel surrounded by slender dilated capillaries (the smallest blood vessels) that resemble spider legs.

Spider angiomas on the face are commonly seen in fair-skinned people and may occur in children. In most people, there is no known cause, but people with cirrhosis often develop many spider angiomas, as do many women who are pregnant or who are using oral contraceptives. Spider angiomas are not present at birth.

Spider angiomas are usually less than ¼ inch (about 0.5 centimeters) across. They are harmless and cause no symptoms but may be of cosmetic concern. Spider angiomas that develop during pregnancy or oral contraceptive use usually disappear on their own 6 to 9 months after childbirth or after discontinuing oral contraceptive use.

Treatment of spider angiomas is not usually required, but if it is desired for cosmetic reasons, a doctor can destroy the central blood vessel with laser therapy or with an electric needle (electrodesiccation).

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