What Do Broken Capillaries on the Arms & Legs Mean?

Updated February 21, 2017

Telangiectasia is a condition of broken capillaries or spider veins. Although broken capillaries usually appear on the skin as thin lines, clusters of broken capillaries are possible, resembling a red patch or bruise.


Capillaries are a part of the system of veins that bring blood to the lungs for oxygenation, before transferring the blood back to the heart and around the body to provide nutrients.


Broken capillaries are usually visible on the arms and legs as thin red or pink lines often as thin as 0.2 mm.


Broken capillaries appear when the vein wall is too weak to withstand the pressure of the blood being pumped around the body. Reduced resistance of the vein walls is common in women during menopause, when broken capillaries in the arms and legs can mean reduced oestrogen levels.


The incidence of broken capillaries is often hereditary and is a sign of sensitive or fragile skin. Environmental issues can also provide clues to the meanings of broken capillaries, including sun exposure and substance abuse.


Broken capillaries are common among pregnant women. Spider veins on the arms and legs signal an increase in the amount of blood in the body of a pregnant woman as the baby inside her grows.

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About the Author

Paul Cartmell began his career as a writer for documentaries and fictional films in the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s. Working in documentary journalism, Cartmell wrote about a wide variety of subjects including racism in professional sports. Cartmell attended the University of Lincoln and London Metropolitan University, gaining degrees in journalism and film studies.