Is It Skin Cancer?

Q&A logoQuestion:  I have  little thin red lines on the left side of my face.  I know that you have said it can be a broken blood vessel called spider veins, but since I’ve spent so much time in the sun, I wonder if it could be skin cancer. 

Answer:  Little red lines are the face are usually  small broken or swollen blood vessels.  They can be causes by high blood pressure, excess alcohol consumption or too much sun.   A blow to the face from a fall or even too aggressive massage can  also trigger their appearance.  But if you are concerned about skin cancer, I would definately have it evaluated by a dermatologist.  In fact, according to New York City dermatologist  and skin cancer expert Dr Ellen Marmur,  we  all should have a complete “skin  check”  every year.  After a summer in the sun,  early fall is an excellent time to schedule this important  visit to catch problems early.   And keep in mind  that melanoma,  the most serious  and potentially fatal form of skin cancer can also be found in areas of the body  not exposed to the sun.  Melanoma which often does look like a little  red bump, can hide between the toes or behind the ear.  Caught early all forms of skin cancer are treatable with surgery. Check out the Skin Cancer Foundation for  up-to date and accurate information.

Preventing and Treating Spider Veins

If  your  little red line turns out to be simply a broken blood vessel it can be erased with  with IPL or vaporized with an electricl needle.  To prevent  more  from appearing on the  skin,  limit  alcohol to no more than two drinks a week,  manage high blood pressure and stay out of the sun.  Sunblocks can protect against UV rays, but not the thermal damage from the heat of the sun.  Use a light touch on your skin avoiding extremes in hot  or cold water, saunas, massage and harsh scrubbing grains.  Skin care products with  mint, camphor or menthol  can also cause blood vessels to expand and provoke more red lines.

Question: What Causes Little Red Spider Veins on My Face?

Question:  Are spider veins, those little red lines, another sign of aging?  Can Vitamin K help?

Answer:  Sometimes  spider veins   can become  more prominent as we get older, but there are actually  six  main triggerers that can provoke them at any age.

1.  Pregnancy–  the increased blood volme that is part of pregnancy can  put pressure on veins.  In the legs  it can lead to varicose veins, while on the face, little red lines can blossom.

2. Heavy drinking– alcohol tends to expand blodd vessels  and large amounts of alcohol  can expand them so much that they burst.

3. Constant exposure to heat– Are you a Top Chef ?Many kitchen pros have spider veins because they spend so much time over a hot stove.

4. High blood pressure–  the increased pressure in the veins and arteries can be the driving force behind the appearance of spider veins.

5.  Sun Exposure —   The tiny veins in the skin are surrounded by collagen and as sun destroys   collagen,  the veins become  more visable.

6. Trauma –   A blow to the face or an overly enthusiastic massage can damage fragile vessels  and  trigger  spider veins.

Some people are more prone to spider veins. Their veins can be closer to the surface or the skin can be  thin and fine– and some can just  have more blood vessels than others.  As we grow older  all our blood vessels become more fragile.    One of the easiest ways to prevent their appearance is to use  a sunscreen to avoid irritaing the skin and destroying the collagen.

Most treatments for spider veins  involve some type  of laser.  On the easy end IPL ( Intense Pulsed Light)  is a pseudo laser that kills the cells that are behind the growth of these pesky red lines.   Depending on the number of strength of the lines, it can take  1-3 IPL treatments to clear them up.  If a spider vein is particularly large, a true laser  might be needed  to zap them away.

One final thought:Vitamin K does have a role in blood clotting, but there is no evidence that  a vitamin K enriched  cream can erase  red spider veins.  Its just not that easy.