KidsMD Health Topics

Spider Telangiectasias

  • Overview

    We can treat spider telangiectasias with pulsed dye laser. It's device that is "tuned" to a specific wavelength of light and produces a bright light that is absorbed by blood vessels. The abnormal blood vessels are destroyed without damaging the surrounding skin.

    Marilyn Liang, MD, Assistant in Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital

    It can be upsetting when your doctor tells you that your child has spider telangiectasias. But don’t worry — they’re fairly common, and usually nothing more than a cosmetic problem. And if you want to get rid of the spider telangiectasias on your child’s skin, we can help.

    Here’s what you need to know about spider telangiectasias:

    • They form as a result of abnormal blood vessels.
    • They look like little red lines on your child’s skin.
    • They don’t cause any health problems.
    • They can be treated with pulsed dye laser.

    How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches spider telangiectasias

    The Vascular Anomalies Center at Children's is committed to providing you with a safe, comfortable and child-friendly atmosphere with:

    • specialized physicians with expertise in treating spider telangiectasias in children of all ages
    • certified technologists with years of experience working with children and teens
    • top-of-the-line equipment that’s safe and effective for kids

    Ours is the largest vascular anomalies center in the world, and we’re known for our science-driven approach. But our doctors never forget that your child is a child, and not just a patient. We specialize in innovative, family-centered care, and the dedicated, compassionate staff at Children’s is incredibly well qualified to care for your child.

    A parent’s perspective
    Our son, Jack, had just turned 1 and needed your services for an issue he was having with his hip. During our few visits to Boston Children's Hospital, my wife and I were exposed to a whole new world. Read about a family’s experience here at Children’s.

    Spider telangiectasias: Reviewed by Marilyn Liang, MD,
    © Children’s Hospital Boston, 2010

  • In-Depth

    A spider telangiectasia may seem scary at first, but it can be effectively treated — and sometimes it even goes away on its own. Read on for more information about spider telangiectasias.

    What causes spider telangiectasia?

    Doctors don’t really know what causes spider telangiectasias.

    How common are they?

    They’re pretty common, and often appear in adults as well.

    Are they painful?

    No. Spider telangiectasias don’t hurt.

    Signs and symptoms

    What are the signs of spider telangiectasias?

    The only sign of a spider telangiectasia is the mark itself. They look like little red lines on the surface of the skin. While they can appear anywhere on your child’s body, they often show up on the face.

    Are there any symptoms?

    No — spider telangiectasias are only cosmetic concerns.

    Long-term outlook

    What is the long-term outlook for my child?

    Just fine. Spider telangiectasias don't pose any health problems for your child. The only decision you’ll need to make is whether you’d like your child to have laser therapy to get rid of them.

    Do spider telangiectasias come back after treatment?

    It’s possible. And new spider telangiectasias can appear at any time.


    Q: What are spider telangiectasias?
    They’re abnormally formed blood vessels that appear as tiny red lines anywhere on your child’s skin.

    Q: Do spider telangiectasias get better on their own?
    Some do. Others require laser therapy before they fade. For more information about laser therapy, see the Treatment & Care section.

    Q: Are there any symptoms of spider telangiectasias?
    No. They’re just cosmetic concerns.

    Q: Are they painful?
    No. Spider telangiectasias don’t hurt.

    Q: How are they treated?
    Often, we don’t treat spider telangiectasias at all because they’re not a health risk for your child. Depending on where they are, however, you may decide you’d like to get rid of them for cosmetic reasons. At Children’s, we use a device called a pulsed-dye laser to destroy the blood vessels that are causing the birthmark.

    Q: What makes Children’s different?
    Our physicians are bright, compassionate and committed to focusing on the whole child, not just his condition — that’s one reason we’re frequently ranked as a top pediatric hospital in the United States. And our physicians use the latest equipment to treat your child’s spider telangiectasias, which means less pain, faster recovery and no scarring.

    Questions to ask your doctor

    It can be difficult to remember all the questions that you want to ask your child’s doctor at the appointment, and many parents find it helpful to jot them down. Here are some to get you started:

    • Could something else be causing my child’s symptoms?
    • What treatments are available?
    • What are the complications or after effects of the treatments?
    Kid-centered care

    Therapies like pulsed dye laser can sometimes be intimidating for young children, so we’ve built our treatments around concepts that work for kids. Our entire staff is highly trained and experienced. And more importantly, we’re all dedicated to working with families — to make sure that your child is as comfortable as possible during the pulsed dye laser procedure.

  • Tests

    How do I know if my child has spider telangiectasias?

    It’s simple, really. You’ll see tiny red lines on your child’s skin and the doctor will confirm that they’re spider telangiectasias.

    When should I consult a vascular anomalies specialist?

    We advise consulting a vascular anomalies specialist in two situations:

    • if your child’s spider telangiectasias seem to be growing
    • if your child has any pain or bleeding from the spider telangiectasias


  • You may have been worried when your child was diagnosed with spider telangiectasias — but you don't need to be. These are quite common marks that can be left untreated or gotten rid of with simple laser therapy treatments.

    What are our options for cosmetic treatments?

    At Boston Children's Hospital, our experts use a device called a pulsed dye laser to destroy these abnormal blood vessels that can disfigure your child's skin. Pulsed dye laser is the gold standard of treatment for spider telangiectasias because it's highly effective and rarely causes any scarring.

    How does it work?

    First, the doctor “tunes” the laser to a specific wavelength of light. It produces a bright light that is absorbed by blood vessels. The abnormal blood vessels are destroyed without damaging the surrounding skin.

    What's the treatment like?

    Your child's physician holds a wand against the skin and "pulses" the laser for about a minute. It should only take one or two treatments to destroy the blood vessels and lighten your child's skin. During the treatment, your child wears eye protection because laser light can potentially harm his eyes.

    Is the treatment painful?

    Not really. The laser light feels a bit like a rubber band snapping against the skin. Afterwards, your child may feel a bit of pain equivalent to a minor sunburn.

    If you're worried about your child's reaction to the discomfort, we can give her a topical anesthetic. Tylenol can also help reduce the pain.

    Are there any side effects?

    There are a few minor side effects:

    • Immediately after the treatment, your child's skin will be purple where the laser was focused. This lasts for seven to ten days.
    • As the purple fades, the treated area may still look red, but it will slowly fade to normal skin color over the next few weeks.
    • In a few kids, crusting may develop in the first several days and last up to two weeks.
    • Some kids may experience a temporary brown discoloration of the skin for several months.

    What else do we need to know about the treatment?

    • Avoid direct exposure to the sun for three weeks prior to the treatment. Sunburn and suntan may absorb the laser light and make the treatment less effective.
    • You should also avoid sun exposure for several months after the treatment. We recommend always applying a sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater.
    • Avoid aspirin and aspirin-like products for 14 days prior to treatment.
    • You may want to apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage to your child's skin immediately after treatment.

    Your child's physician and other members of your care team will work with you to develop an appropriate follow-up care plan should that be necessary.

    What if my child has concerns about his appearance?

    Spider telangiectasias don't pose any health problems, so many parents decide not to treat them at all. However, as your child gets older, he may be uncomfortable with the marks, especially if they're in a prominent location, such as his face or neck. Our counselors can help your child deal with the psychological and social issues related to having spider telangiectasias.

    Coping and support

    We understand that you may have a lot of questions when your doctor tells you that your child has spider telangiectasias.

    • Will they go away?
    • How will they affect my child long term?
    • What kinds of treatment are there?
    • What do we do next?

    We've tried to provide some answers to those questions in the following pages, but there are also a number of other resources to help you and your family.

    Patient education: From the first office visit, our nurses will be on hand to walk you through your child's treatment and help answer any questions you may have — Does my child need treatment? What can we expect next? They will also reach out to you by phone, continuing the care and support you received while at Children's.

    Parent to parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has had laser therapy? We can often put you in touch with other families who can share their experience.

    On our For Patients and Families site, you can read all you need to know about:

    • getting to Children's
    • accommodations
    • navigating the hospital experience
    • resources that are available for your family
    Center for Young Women's Health and Center for Young Men's Health

    Why are my friendships changing? How can I convince my parents that being a vegetarian is heathy and right for me? What types of birth control are available to me, and how do I use them? Young men and young women may have some concerns specific to their gender, and some that they share. At Children's, the Center for Young Women's Health and Center for Young Men's Health offer the latest general and gender-specific information about issues including fitness and nutrition, sexuality and health, health and development and emotional health.

  • Research & Innovation

    At Children’s Hospital Boston, we’re known for our science-driven approach. In fact, we’re home to the world's most extensive pediatric hospital research enterprise, and we partner with elite health care and biotech organizations around the globe. But as specialists in innovative, family-centered care, our physicians never forget that your child is precious, and not just a patient.

    Our Vascular Anomalies Center (VAC) conducts research that may lead to the development of new, more effective therapies and perhaps ultimately result in ways to prevent these anomalies. Read more about our research.

    Clinical and Translational Study Unit
    Read about a day in the life of the Clinical and Translational Study Unit at Children’s.

    Vascular Anomalies Center

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Fegan Building, 3rd Floor
    Boston MA 02115



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