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Alcohol and Health

Does Alcohol Cause Spider Angioma?

June 1, 2024
18 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 1, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Reframe Content Team
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Alcohol Can Increase the Presence of Spider Angiomas and Spider Veins

  • A spider angioma is a red web-like vascular lesion that appears beneath the surface of the skin, sometimes caused by alcohol. Spider veins are blue and appear due to broken capillaries.

  • You can reduce your risk of spider angiomas, spider veins, and other vein problems by cutting back on alcohol and keeping your hormones balanced.

  • Take care of your circulatory system and veins by quitting or cutting back on alcohol. Reframe can provide you with the science-based information and motivation you need to form better health habits regarding alcohol. 

It’s Monday morning, you’re getting ready for work, putting on your clothes. As you wash your face, you notice a red dot on your cheek. Looking more closely, you notice a red web-like shape. Did you scratch yourself too hard? Did you get bit by a radioactive spider?

While the spider story might be more fun, the more likely answer is that it’s a spider angioma. Let’s explore this condition in more detail and discover what it has to do with alcohol.

Alcohol’s Effect on the Veins

Image: A red rash on a person's skin

Before we get into spider angiomas and other vein problems, let’s talk about what alcohol does to our veins and circulatory system in general.

Alcohol has a direct effect on our veins and can cause both vasodilation and vasoconstriction (widening or narrowing of blood vessels), depending on how much we drink. When the liver begins processing alcohol, it prioritizes that and doesn’t have time to filter out toxins from the blood. This can cause the toxins to build up and become thicker, which also damages the veins because there is more pressure on them. 

Vein damage can lead to all sorts of unpleasant conditions, including spider angiomas. Let’s get back into this and what we can do to treat or prevent it.

What Is a Spider Angioma?

A spider angioma is a type of vascular lesion, meaning it manifests in the veins just below the skin. It’s distinguished from other vascular lesions because it looks like a red spider web on the skin. It looks a lot like spider veins but has a red dot in the middle of the web. A spider angioma is ultimately caused by dilated blood vessels right below the skin’s surface. Spider angiomas can appear on the arms, face, fingers, neck, leg, or torso.

What Causes Spider Angiomas?

Spider angiomas happen when the blood vessels right below the skin dilate. The exact mechanism for its appearance is unknown, but we know it’s affected by the liver and hormones. It is common in both children and adults and often affects pregnant women (due to their hormonal changes). While it is common, having many spider angiomas at once could be a sign of something more sinister such as liver disease. Most cases of spider angioma clear up by themselves.

If you’re thinking, “Well, that doesn’t give me much information,” don’t worry, there’s more to it. Spider angiomas can also be caused by alcohol consumption.

Alcohol’s Association With Spider Angiomas

Alcohol has direct effects on the body that can result in spider angiomas. Let’s take a look at some of these:

  • Effect on the veins. Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it causes the blood vessels to widen. If this occurs right below the surface of the skin, we may see a spider angioma appear.
  • Interaction with the liver. Alcohol directly damages the liver, and this can lead to spider angiomas. Spider angiomas are also a symptom of liver disease, including cirrhosis.
  • Hormonal changes. Spider angiomas often appear when there is a lot of estrogen in the body. This makes women, especially pregnant women or women taking hormonal contraceptives, more susceptible. Alcohol also increases estrogen in the body, increasing the likelihood of anyone getting spider angiomas, not just women. Higher estrogen levels are also often a sign of liver cirrhosis, which points back to alcohol.
  • Inflammation. Alcohol causes inflammation, which can also affect the skin, making it appear red and patchy.
  • Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you pee and lose water, causing dehydration. This can also affect blood circulation and exacerbate spider angiomas.

We’ve investigated some of the ways alcohol can cause spider angiomas, but just how common are they? 

Prevalence of Spider Angiomas Among Alcohol Users

Spider angiomas are common in people with liver cirrhosis. In particular, they are more common in people with liver cirrhosis caused by alcohol than liver cirrhosis caused by something else (such as hepatitis C). One study found that 33% of liver cirrhosis patients also had spider angiomas.

So what can we do if we have spider angiomas? Instead of pulling out the Spiderman suit and accepting it as a new battle scar, let’s explore some things we can do.

Treatment for Spider Angiomas

Here are some ways to get rid of spider angiomas:

  • Leave it alone. Many spider angiomas go away by themselves and don’t require any treatment. They may take months or years to completely disappear though, depending on the cause.
  • Laser therapy. You can see a dermatologist about laser treatment to remove unwanted spider angiomas.
  • Burning. Not as scary as it sounds, burning treatment involves applying an electric needle to the site to remove the angioma.
  • Stay hydrated. Hydration is crucial for healthy skin, and staying hydrated will also improve our blood flow, which will help our veins in general.
  • Avoid alcohol during treatment. Since alcohol can make spider angiomas appear, we should avoid it if we want to get rid of them.

Of course, the best thing we can do is prevent spider angiomas from appearing in the first place. The best way to do that is to keep our hormones in check, limit our alcohol intake, and maintain proper hydration.

We’ve established that alcohol can lead to spider angiomas because it affects our blood vessels and hormones. But what else can it do to our veins? 

What About Spider Veins and Alcohol?

Spider angiomas and spider veins are two different things. We already know what spider angiomas are, but spider veins differ in that they are flat and appear blue. They can appear on the nose, face, and legs, but are most common on the legs, particularly in people with varicose veins. What’s the difference? Spider veins appear because of damaged capillaries (not actual veins), whereas varicose veins are damaged veins that bulge out of the skin.

Spider veins are caused by many of the same factors as spider angiomas, such as hormones, but have other distinct causes such as:

  • Sun exposure (this is a common cause of the ones that appear on the face)
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Genetics

But what about alcohol? Well, for the same reason alcohol can lead to spider angiomas, it can also lead to spider veins. Alcohol can damage the veins and negatively affect circulation, which can damage capillaries, causing spider veins.

Treatment for Spider Veins

Fortunately, there are some things we can do to treat spider veins, although it’s not quite as easy as dealing with spider angioma. Let’s take a look:

  • Laser therapy. Like spider angioma, we can use laser therapy for treatment. This involves using a laser to heat and destroy the spider vein. Since it’s already damaged, this cleans up the leftover part that looks blue.
  • Surgery. Known as “sclerotherapy,” this relatively non-invasive procedure involves the doctor injecting the spider vein with a solution to make it close up and disappear. Most patients see results within a few weeks.

Again, avoiding or limiting alcohol will help prevent spider veins, and so will staying active, protecting your skin from the sun, and quitting smoking. 

So we’ve talked about alcohol and spider angioma and alcohol and spider veins, but there’s one more vein problem to address: varicose veins.

Does Alcohol Cause Varicose Veins?

To recap, varicose veins are damaged and swollen veins that bulge out of the skin, and most commonly appear in the legs. Varicose veins happen when the blood pressure in the veins increases so much that it damages them. But is there a link between alcohol and varicose veins?

To start, let’s look at some common causes of varicose veins, which differ from those of spider angiomas and spider veins:

  • Genetics
  • Being older
  • Being overweight
  • Being female
  • Having a lifestyle that involves long periods of standing or sitting
  • Wearing restrictive clothing on a regular basis for a long time

How does alcohol fit into the picture? Well, alcohol can increase the likelihood of developing varicose veins over time. The reason for this is that alcohol damages the veins and disrupts proper circulation, causing the circulatory system to have to work harder to maintain blood flow. The further away we get from the heart, the harder it has to work to get oxygen there, so you can imagine that circulatory problems will only make it that much harder for healthy blood to move through the legs. Blood can get backed up down there, which puts stress on the veins and damages them, resulting in the blue appearance of varicose veins.

Alcohol also releases estrogen, which can relax or weaken the walls of the veins and lead to varicose veins. This is one reason why varicose veins are more common in women. One study even found that in a group of women, those who consumed alcohol weekly had more prevalence of varicose veins than those who didn’t drink.

So what can we do to treat varicose veins once we have them?

Treatment for Varicose Veins

The treatment for varicose veins is more intense than for spider veins or spider angiomas:

  • Surgery. Remember sclerotherapy from earlier when we were talking about spider veins? Well, the same treatment can be used for varicose veins.
  • Laser therapy. A bit different than laser therapies for other unwanted veins, this one uses both a tube and a laser to close off the vein.
  • Removal of veins. Another surgical procedure, the doctor may remove affected veins to prevent them from reappearing. This is more serious and can come with side effects such as scarring and infection; however, it doesn’t affect the bloodflow in your legs — deep veins take over this job.
  • Elevation of the legs. Some people elevate their legs several times a day to decrease pressure on the legs and help with blood flow.
  • Compression stockings. These special garments compress the legs and help you feel more comfortable. They also help with blood flow because they suck in the veins and reduce the pressure on them.

As always, prevention is key, and even if you’re genetically prone to varicose veins, you can reduce your chances of getting them by maintaining an active lifestyle, eating foods that support the heart and circulatory system, and of course, quitting or cutting back on booze to help the veins stay healthy.

A Connected Web

Our veins connect everything in our body together, so we can imagine that whatever we put in our body will affect the veins. Alcohol has complex interactions with the veins in general and over time, those interactions can manifest in different ways and varying degrees of seriousness. As we get older, our bodies and veins become weaker naturally, so it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep our blood pumping, our veins working, and our faces web-free for years to come. As always, quitting or cutting back on booze will help with this and numerous other aspects of our life to create the healthiest version of ourselves. 

Summary FAQs

1. Does alcohol cause spider veins on my nose?

If you have spider veins on your face, alcohol consumption may be a contributing factor because it can damage capillaries.

2. Is there a varicose veins/alcohol link?

Alcohol damages the veins and disrupts hormones, both of which can contribute to varicose veins over time.

3. Does alcohol cause spider angiomas?

Alcohol can cause spider angiomas due to vein damage, excess estrogen, and strain on the liver, all of which are directly linked to spider angiomas.

4. What’s the difference between spider veins and spider angiomas?

A spider angioma is a red web-like lesion that appears pretty much anywhere on the body, whereas spider veins are damaged, blue-colored capillaries that are most common in the legs.

Give Your Veins Some Love by Quitting or Cutting Back on Alcohol With Reframe!

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