Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (Rendu-Osler-Weber disease) is a hereditary disorder in which blood vessels are malformed, making them fragile and prone to bleeding.
Blood vessels under the skin may break and bleed, causing small, red-to-violet discolorations, especially on the face, lips, lining of the mouth and nose, and tips of the fingers and toes. Severe nosebleeds may also occur. Small blood vessels in the digestive and urinary tracts, as well as in the brain and spinal cord, may also be affected, causing bleeding in these sites.
Treatment is aimed at stopping an occurrence of bleeding. Treatment may involve applying pressure, using a topical drug that narrows blood vessels (astringent), or using a laser beam to destroy the leaking blood vessel. Severe bleeding may require more invasive techniques. Bleeding almost always recurs, resulting in iron deficiency anemia; consequently, people with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia need to take iron supplements. Some people may also need to take drugs that inhibit the formation of fibrin.
Last full review/revision May 2006 by Joel L. Moake, MD