An angioma is a benign (non-cancerous) blood-vessel growth that appears at or near the surface of the skin. Angiomas are composed of vigorously growing endothelial cells, which usually form the lining of blood vessels. Though an angioma may bleed if scratched, rubbed or cut open, it should otherwise cause no particular discomfort.
Angioma - Medical specialists
Angioma - Further information
The common types of angioma that may be encountered include:
- cherry angioma
- spider angioma (spider naevus)
- venous lake
Cherry angiomas are also known as senile angiomas or Campbell de Morgan spots. They may occur anywhere on the body but are typically found around the mid-trunk region. These growths have a maximum size of around six millimetres, are usually oval or circular in shape, and vary considerably in colour. Broken blood vessels often give them a reddish appearance, but they can also be blue or purple, and even darker ones are almost black. Some appear flush with the skin surface, while others seem to be slightly raised. Commonly associated with the ageing process, cherry angiomas often begin to appear around 40 years of age and may then increase in number as the years go by.
Spider angioma (spider naevus)
A spider angioma or spider naevus may often appear on the face and upper chest region. Spider angiomas are named after their spider-like appearance – they characteristically display with a central red papule to which feeding capillary legs are attached. This type of angioma can be found in children as well as in adults. Such angiomas tend to increase in number when excess oestrogen is present, as occurs during pregnancy, for example, or in cases where liver function is below par.
Dilated venules (small veins) that are commonly found on the lip are called venous lakes, though they can also be found elsewhere – for example, on the ear lobe. It is rare for other types of angioma to appear on the lip.
Symptoms of angiomas
Apart from sometimes causing a cosmetic blemish, angiomas are reported to be asymptomatic (without noticeable symptoms).
Though some people appear to be genetically predisposed to develop cherry angiomas, no precise cause has yet been identified. Some experts have suggested there may be possible links with pregnancy, climate factors or even exposure to chemicals. However, the link between cherry angiomas and ageing is widely accepted.
As with any type of lesion or growth, you should ask your doctor to investigate if any angioma should change in appearance. At this stage, your doctor’s primary concern will be to rule out any much more serious conditions, such as a skin cancer.
Diagnosis of angiomas
Most angiomas are typically diagnosed clinically, which means your doctor’s opinion will be based on the angioma’s appearance together with your report, without any further investigation.
However, in cases of uncertainty or where there may be other reasons that warrant further checks, the following procedures may be called upon:
- a biopsy – a minor diagnostic procedure involving the removal of a small tissue sample for further analysis
- an ultrasound scan – this will reveal whether any underlying tissues are affected
- an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan or angiography (X-ray of blood vessels) in more complex cases where more detail is required
Treatment of angiomas
In many instances, there will be no need to remove or treat angiomas. However, there may be an option to remove such a growth for cosmetic reasons, or if its location makes it prone to regular bleeding because of frequent abrasive contact.
The common procedures for removal of angiomas include:
- electrocauterization – this procedure involves using a small electrical probe to burn off the angioma.
- cryosurgery – this quick and relatively straightforward technique uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and eradicate the angioma.
- vascular laser surgery – this procedure employs a pulsed dye laser to destroy the angioma. Surgery is performed on an outpatient basis with no overnight stay.
- shave excision – this method removes the angioma growth from the skin surface, which avoids invasive surgery and stitching.
Scarring is rare with all of these methods of removal – but always possible.
Chances of recovery from angiomas
Though an angioma is unlikely to disappear, it should not cause any other problems. Some bleeding may be noticed if it is scratched, or if there is any chafing when in contact with your clothing.
Any angioma that starts to change – for example in colour, shape or size – should be checked by your doctor or a dermatologist.
Prevention of angiomas
The removal of angiomas may not necessarily prevent their later reappearance.