After being hesitant to try to become pregnant for the first time, Morgan, 33, was surprised at how well she felt two thirds of the way to her delivery date. She watched her weight, got plenty of rest and managed to work in the office in the morning and at home each weekday afternoon. When she tried to brush a red piece of lint off her cheek one morning, however, she was horrified to find that it was really some kind of spot. A trip to her doctor confirmed that it was a spider angioma.
What exactly is a spider angioma?
According to MedlinePlus, it's an abnormal collection of blood vessels located near the skin's surface. These benign red lesions are considered very common, especially during pregnancy and in patients suffering from liver diseases such as advanced cirrhosis. Both children and adults can develop them.
A spider angioma is a form of a condition known as telangiectasis. When a group of small blood vessels dilate, they can produce a vascular lesion known as a telangiectasia. This translates into a small red spot with radiating limbs like a spider or a red line that's either coarse or fine. Another name for a spider angioma is spider nevus.
What is its exact appearance?
USAToday indicates that the principal characteristic of a spider angioma is a central elevated red dot with small blood vessels radiating from it. The dot is roughly the size of a pinhead.
These lesions most frequently appear on an individual's neck and face. The red dot disappears when pressed but comes back when pressure is withdrawn. Beyond its red appearance, this type of angioma produces no signs or symptoms.
Causes of spider angiomas
Experts link the development of these lesions to high estrogen levels that occur during a pregnancy or when taking oral contraceptives. Levels of this hormone are also elevated when the patient has liver disease and the organ isn't able to detoxify estrogens in the body.
In most cases, doctors are able to diagnose these angiomas solely by their appearance and the patient's circumstances without ordering any lab tests. However, if the health care provider suspects a liver problem of if there are multiple angiomas without "legs," blood tests might be necessary to rule out other hereditary conditions. Depending on the suspected cause of the lesion, doctors might also perform a skin biopsy.
When spider angiomas develop in children, they often just eventually disappear. In some adults, however, they tend to persist.
When treatment proves necessary, the usual method is electrocauterization, which seals off blood vessels through the use of a high-frequency electric current. An additional alternative is laser therapy, though it can prove quite expensive. Treatment for this condition is considered cosmetic.
When the development of a spider angioma is due to pregnancy or oral contraceptives, the lesion usually resolves spontaneously six to nine months after delivery or after discontinuing the medication. However, individuals with cirrhosis can develop many spider angiomas that might become very prominent.
When to seek medical advice
A patient who experiences a new spider adenoma should arrange for an examination by his or her health care provider. This is important in order to rule out any underlying medical conditions.