Cherry Angiomas: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment Options
A cherry angioma is a small, compressible growth on the skin that is usually red in color. These skin lesions usually appear later in life, after 30 years old, and increase in quantity with age. Although they are benign and not harmful to one’s health, cherry angiomas are some of the most common skin growths that patients will request removal for aesthetic reasons.
In this post, we discuss cherry angiomas in detail, including symptoms, causes, prevention, and treatment options.
What is a Cherry Angioma?
Angiomas are harmless tumors that arise from the cells of blood vessels. A cherry angioma, also known as a “Campbell de Morgan Spot” or “senile angioma”, is the most common type of angioma.
Color & Size
These oval, dome-shaped lesions are typically bright red in color, although they might also be dark blue or purple. Cherry angiomas can be as small as pinpoint dots, resembling petechiae, to raised lesions several millimeters in diameter. It is normal for lesions to gradually increase in size with age. It is also normal for several lesions to coalesce, forming a polypoid-shaped lesion.
Cherry angiomas most commonly develop on the trunk, shoulders, and thighs. Rarely, cherry angiomas are located on the hands, feet or mucous membranes. When multiple cherry angiomas appear, they often cluster together in groups.
Cherry angiomas are generally asymptomatic but can bleed when traumatized, sometimes significantly due to their vascular origin.
Lesions that are rapidly changing or accompanied by a purplish halo should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist to rule out the possibility of a nodular melanoma or severe systemic condition such as amyloidosis.
What Causes Cherry Angiomas?
When visualized under the microscope, cherry angiomas show numerous congested blood vessels. It is generally believed that cherry angiomas appear as a result of genetics, sun exposure, hormonal change, and age. Cherry angiomas are more prevalent in those over age 30 and in those with fair or light skin. Eruptive lesions have been described after exposure to certain chemicals, such as nitrogen mustard chemotherapy.
Are There Ways to Prevent Cherry Angiomas from Developing?
There are no clear methods for preventing cherry angiomas, although it is generally believed that protecting the skin from sun exposure will prevent the cellular changes that lead to congested blood vessel overgrowth and subsequent cherry angioma formation.
Can I Remove a Cherry Angioma at Home?
It is not recommended to remove cherry angiomas at home, as this could lead to significant pain, bleeding, infection and permanent scarring. Lesions resembling cherry angiomas are best addressed in a sterile environment by a trained dermatologist or other specialist in order to get an accurate diagnosis and effective removal.
Cherry Angioma Treatment Options
Since cherry angiomas are benign, no treatment is necessary from a medical standpoint. Sometimes, a biopsy is necessary to diagnosis a cherry angioma, especially if the lesion is clinically suspicious for a nodular melanoma. Once a diagnosis is established, options for cosmetic removal include the following:
Electrodessication removes cherry angioma by ablating the lesion with electric current and heat. This quick procedure destroys the blood vessels that make up the angioma, causing the treated area to scab over and ultimately separate from the surrounding skin. A small wound is left behind and typically heals to a flat scar the same size and shape as the original cherry angioma.
Laser therapy with pulsed dye laser (PDL), intense pulsed light (IPL), or long-pulse Nd:YAG can treat cherry angiomas by using light energy to target the red pigment in the blood vessels that make up these lesions. Afterwards, the treated area appears bruised but ultimately resolves within 1-2 weeks into a flat scar.
Punch excision can be utilized to completely cut and remove the cherry angioma from the skin. Before the procedure, the area is numbed with an injection of local anesthetic. A “punch tool” is then utilized to remove the entire cherry angioma from the skin. Afterwards, the open wound is cinched back together with stitches.
Each of the above methods can be performed at a dermatology office upon request. A consultation with a dermatologist can help you decide which method of removal is best for you.