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What to do about broken capillaries

broken capillaries
November 15, 2007 Reviewed by Marta 1 Comment

The face has an extensive network of veins and tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Over time, aging, trauma, sun exposure, and certain (a-hem) lifestyle factors cause them to break appearing as red streaks or blotches on the face. Sometimes, they are not actually broken but simply enlarged. This is called telangiectasia.

Actually spider veins in adults have their genesis in childhood. Children as young as 10-12 years can have the symptoms before they become visible at a later age.

Using make-up to cover up broken veins can make matters worse. Dye in blusher, for example, or oils such as wheat germ can block pores. Choose mineral based cosmetics that don't clog.

Since I am always looking for non-invasive or at least minimally invasive solutions, I've been trying to find alternatives to laser treatment. Sadly, there aren't really any potions and lotions that can be said to reduce or minimize enlarged or broken capillaries. It is worth trying a Vitamin K cream. However, although Vitamin K does work as a blood clotter, it is unproven as to whether it works topically.

Horse chestnut seed extract may help (it is said to eradicate varicose veins). However, the research evidence to support this is thin.

The least invasive treatment is Intense Pulsed Light therapy (for a bit more background see my post on November 2). Results of formal trials are reasonably - but not outstandingly - good with 37.5% of testers seeing a 75% plus improvement after up to four sessions. However, I've also come across women commenting on message boards that IPL made little or no difference in erasing broken veins in their cheeks.

These women resorted to diathermy. This procedure cauterizes the blood vessels and, according to all the anecdotal reports I've seen, it works. It is also lengthy and painful.

Another approach is electrodessication, which sends an electric pulse via a needle into the vein. The downside is that it doesn't last and retreatment will be required every few years.

Although sclerotherapy (a solution is injected into the vein causing it to dissolve) is normally associated with treating varicose veins on the legs, it can be used on the face with an average success rate of 70%. Some bruising and swelling is likely and, therefore, only one or two areas are treated in a session and a month is usually left until the subsequent session. The risk of the sclerosant travelling into the deeper veins is greater with a facial therapy than when legs are treated.

Laser seems to be the surest bet. The red component of the blood absorbs the yellow light of a copper bromide laser causing dilated vessels to coagulate. After about a month they are replaced by as smaller, less noticable vessel.

  • November 18, 2007

    by Sabrina

    <p>Sclerotherapy treatment on facial vessels can cause vision damage. Not something I would recommend. Electro cautery by a Dermatologist is a good treatment option.<br />
    Of course, there are many IPL lasers. The latest models are best. I am familiar with Lumenis (13 filter settings). IPL is practitioner dependent as the right filter must be matched to skin type and diagnosis.<br />
    Vessels are due to sun exposure and genetics, so treatment is usually repeated every few years.</p>

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