Broken veins are tiny blood vessels which run close to the surface of the skin and look like fine red, or sometimes purple, wiggly lines. They’re also sometimes called ‘spider veins’ or ‘thread veins’, although the veins aren’t in fact broken but only slightly enlarged. The medical term for them is telangiectasia. Usually there’s no obvious cause, but they tend to develop as we age and our skin and blood vessels become less elastic. Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and the menopause are thought to provoke their development – the reason why women are more prone to them than men. Other causes include genetics, too much sunbathing, exposure to wind or extreme temperatures, cortico-steroid medicines and radiotherapy.