Angiomas

Author: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 1997.

What is an angioma?

Angioma or haemangioma (American spelling ‘hemangioma’) describes a benign (non-cancerous) overgrowth of blood vessels in the skin. Angiomas are due to proliferating endothelial cells; these are the cells that line blood vessels.

Acquired angiomas include:

Cherry angiomas

Cherry angiomas may develop on any part of the body but they appear most often around the midtrunk. They can be red, blue, purple, or almost black. Cherry angiomas increase in number from about the age of 40. Their cause is unknown.

Cherry angiomas are also known as Campbell de Morgan spots.

More images of cherry angiomas ...

Spider angiomas (spider naevi)

Spider angiomas or spider naevi are common on the face and upper chest. They are given that name because they have a central red papule with feeding capillary legs. They are sometimes known as naevus araneus.

Spider angiomas may be seen in children and adults. They are more numerous in the presence of extra oestrogen, for example in pregnancy, or when liver function is poor.

More images of spider angiomas / spider naevi ...

Venous lakes

Angiomas on the lip are known as venous lakes. They are usually bluish in colour, but may also be red or purple.

More images of venous lakes ...

Investigations

Angiomas are usually diagnosed clinically and no investigations are necessary for the majority of lesions. However, when there is uncertainty about the diagnosis or whether underlying tissues are affected, an ultrasound scan is often performed. Characteristically, a haemangioma has a firm lobular structure with vessels separating the lobules.

In more complicated cases it may be necessary to perform Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or angiography to help plan treatment.

Treatment

Angiomas are harmless, so do not have to be treated. Occasionally, they are removed to exclude a malignant skin lesion such as nodular melanoma.

If desired for cosmetic reasons, angiomas can be simply removed by one of the following methods:

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