Red spots on the face are generally caused by dilated blood vessels in the skin. The most common type of discrete (isolated) red spot is a hemangioma. Hemangiomas are benign skin growths caused by dilated blood vessels. It is not known exactly why they form, but most hemangiomas seem to be related to estrogen hormones and are more common in females. Once they form, they are permanent and will persist indefinitely. People often don’t realize that hemangiomas can be easily removed with the right type of laser treatment. It is unfortunate that they think they have to live with these red spots and can spend years trying to cover them with makeup.
There are two major types of facial hemangioma (also referred to as “angioma”): spider hemangioma and cherry hemangioma. Spider hemangiomas arise from a central blood vessel deep in the skin and have radiating branches that can look somewhat like spider legs. Cherry angiomas are usually bright red in color and look like round, slightly raised spots; they start as tiny, barely visible spots and gradually increase in size.
Both types of hemangioma can be treated with the right type of laser. Treatments are quick and minimally painful and do not require any anesthesia. Spider hemangiomas, because they reside deeper in the skin, are best treated with a long-pulse Nd:YAG laser. This laser has a longer (infrared range) wavelength that penetrates to the necessary depth in the skin to coagulate the central “feeder vessel” of the lesion. In most cases only one treatment will successfully eradicate the hemangioma. Larger cherry angiomas can also be treated with the long-pulse Nd:YAG laser; smaller lesions may need to be treated with a green light KTP laser.
It is important to visit a comprehensive laser center such as The Langdon Center that has both of these types of laser. For more information about the skin and lasers, check out Dr. Langdon’s book Understanding Cosmetic Laser Surgery.