Telangiectasia, the medical term for spider veins and broken capillaries, may appear anywhere on the face, typically around nose or under the eyes. The causes of spider veins on the face may differ from the causes on the legs or other areas. The red or bluish threads are injured veins or capillaries. Spider veins are usually harmless, but some people have a cosmetic concern over the condition. In fact, the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery found that 50 to 55 percent of American women complain about spider veins. (See Reference 1)
Spider veins develop from a venous deficiency. The deficiency comes from a back-flow of blood in the veins; the pressure causes damage to the vessel walls. Prolonged inflammation, high blood pressure and obesity are some of the medical causes for venous deficiency. Sometimes, a non-medical condition causes venous deficiency. Rubbing or washing the face too hard can cause broken capillaries, especially around the eye area.
Aging causes the weakening of veins and skin, and the aging skin can make the spider veins more noticeable. Generally, smaller spider veins are reddish, and larger spider veins are bluish. The color of the spider vein stems from the repair capabilities of the veins affected. The broken capillary in younger skin can delegate its function to a larger vein and remain reddish until it repairs. Aging capillaries may not be able to depend on larger veins to do the job if the larger veins are also broken and weak. (See Reference 2)
Skin diseases, such as rosacea and eczema and other inflammatory conditions, can cause spider veins. Any skin condition that causes prolonged dilation or irritation can put pressure on veins and delicate capillaries.
Free radicals are responsible for spider veins on the face, more so than spider veins that develop on the legs. Too much sun exposure can cause spider veins or broken capillaries on the face, especially on the skin under the eyes. Smoking can damage arteries and veins, but smoking also causes premature aging, making the spider veins more evident. Capillary repair may take longer than those who do not smoke. Second-hand smoke, pollution and toxin exposure can also contribute to the development of spider veins.
Dr. Peter Lawrence, chief of vascular surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says that spider veins affect up to 40 percent of the population. (See Reference 3) Lifestyle factors may contribute to the high percentage of the population affected, since lifestyle choices can affect how well the veins function, work and repair. Sometimes, the culprit for broken capillaries around the eye area stems from stress, insomnia, eyestrain or a lack of exercise. Exercise can improve vein, skin and overall health. Sometimes, the body's overall health status becomes evident from the telltale signs on the face.