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Generalised essential telangiectasia

Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, 2003. 


What is generalised essential telangiectasia?

Telangiectasia is the term used to describe the permanent dilation of small blood vessels, creating small, red markings on the skin and mucous membranes.

Essential or primary telangiectasia refers to capillary dilation of unknown origin. No preceding or coexisting skin or internal disease is present. Generalised essential telangiectasia is just one type of primary telangiectasia and is given this name because of its widespread distribution pattern over the body.

Essential telangiectasia

What is the cause of generalised essential telangiectasia?

The cause of generalised essential telangiectasia remains unclear. Sometimes there may be a family history, which suggests a genetic component.

  • It is not associated with varicose veins or other venous disorders.
  • Environmental factors such as sun exposure may possibly play a part in its development

Who gets generalised essential telangiectasia?

Generalised essential telangiectasia usually first appears around 40–50 years of age and affects women more often than men.

What are the signs and symptoms of essential telangiectasia?

Generalised essential telangiectasia is characterised by the following features:

  • Red or pink dilated capillary blood vessels, usually less than 0.2mm in diameter in a lacework or branch-like pattern
  • Most often found on the feet, ankles and lower legs but may appear on the trunk and upper body parts such as hands and arms
  • When pressure is placed on the affected sites, blanching occurs temporarily before blood refills the space
  • Telangiectases may join together to form a diffuse red patch
  • Usually symptomless but tingling or numbness may arise.

Telangiectases may be slow or fast to develop. They usually gradually spread to other parts of the body. They persist indefinitely and do not spontaneously resolve.

Apart from the emotional distress that may be caused by the telangiectases, generalised essential telangiectasia is a benign condition that is not associated with any physical complications. 

What is the differential diagnosis of generalised essential telangiectasia?

Other types of telangiectasia described on DermNet include:

What treatments are available for generalised essential telangiectasia?

It is very difficult to remove the telangiectases of generalised essential telangiectasia. Patients who are self-conscious may use cover-up cosmetics or self-tanning lotions to hide the telangiectases.

They are usually unresponsive to sclerotherapy. Recently, various vascular lasers (frequency-doubled Nd-YAG, copper bromide and pulsed-dye lasers) have shown promise in the treatment of generalised essential telangiectasia.



  • Book: Textbook of Dermatology. Ed Rook A, Wilkinson DS, Ebling FJB, Champion RH, Burton JL. Fourth edition. Blackwell Scientific Publications.

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