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Patient Information Leaflets (PILs)


What are the aims of this leaflet?

This leaflet has been written to help you understand more about a venous lake. It tells you what this condition is, what it is caused by, what can be done about it, and where you can find out more about it.

What is a venous lake?

A venous lake is a small blood vessel (vein) in the skin, which over time has become enlarged.

What causes venous lakes?

It is thought that long-term sun exposure of the skin causes venous lakes. It is usually seen in people older than 50. They are more common in men than in women.

Are venous lakes hereditary?

Venous lakes are common and may affect more than one member of a family, but are not inherited.

They are not contagious or cancerous.

What are the symptoms of a venous lake?

Usually, venous lakes do not cause any symptoms. However, after they have been knocked or caught, they may become painful or bleed.

What does a venous lake look like?

A venous lake is a little blue bleb (small soft lump) of up to 1cm diameter, which may be flat or slightly dome-shaped. It usually affects sun-exposed areas of skin, most commonly the rim of the ear or the lower lip. When compressed, the blood may drain out of it and then return after lifting the pressure.

Most affected persons just have one venous lake, but some people have more than one.

How is a venous lake diagnosed?

A venous lake is usually diagnosed by its characteristic appearance. If there is any doubt, excision may be advised to examine the affected skin under the microscope. This requires the injection of a local anaesthetic and wound-closure with stitches, which will leave a scar.

Can a venous lake be cured?

No treatment is required, unless the venous lake causes bleeding or soreness. However, treatment may be desired for cosmetic reasons, but often leaves some form of scar.

How can a venous lake be treated?

Treatment is unlikely to be necessary, as these lesions cause no symptoms and can often be camouflaged if there is concern about their clinical appearance. If active treatment is undertaken, treatment options include:

  • Excision;
  • Cryotherapy; this means destruction of the skin containing the venous lake by freezing it with liquid nitrogen.
  • Electrosurgery; the enlarged small vein can be treated with an electric current, causing it to dry up (‘electrodissication’).
  • Sclerotherapy; this is the injection of a chemical into the venous lake, which will cause inflammation and thereby closure of the affected little vein.
  • Laser treatment; the pulsed dye laser or KTP laser (vascular lasers) are commonly used. These target the blood in the enlarged vein, heating it up and causing the vessel to shrink. Laser treatment may not be available on the NHS.

Apart from excision, the treatments do not usually need any local anaesthetic. They may leave a small, flat, whitish scar.

If several venous lakes are present, skin camouflage can be useful. Camouflage is a highly pigmented crème, which is matched to the colour of the person’s skin and which is water resistant.

Where can I get more information about venous lakes?

Web links to detailed leaflets:

Skin camouflage organisations:

British Association of Skin Camouflage (NHS and private practice)  

Tel: 01254 703 107


Changing Faces

Tel: 0300 012 0276 (for the Skin Camouflage Service)


Skin Camouflage Network (NHS and private practice)

Helpline: 0785 1073795


For details of source materials used please contact the Clinical Standards Unit (

This leaflet aims to provide accurate information about the subject and is a consensus of the views held by representatives of the British Association of Dermatologists: individual patient circumstances may differ, which might alter both the advice and course of therapy given to you by your doctor.

This leaflet has been assessed for readability by the British Association of Dermatologists’ Patient Information Lay Review Panel


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