Taking Care of an Ill Loved One

4 Things You Need To Know About Angiokeratomas

Angiokeratomas are benign skin lesions that can be mistaken for other, more serious skin conditions. Here are four things you need to know about angiokeratomas.

What are the signs of angiokeratomas?

Angiokeratomas present as verrucous papules (pimple-like lumps with a warty surface) with well-defined borders. You may develop one or many of these papules, which can be red, blue, or black. These papules can reach diameters of up to 10 millimeters (0.4 inches). Scratching and friction against these papules can lead to bleeding.

When only one papule is present, it tends to appear on the genitals or the tops of the hands or feet. When multiple papules are present, they usually form between the belly button and the knees.

While angiokeratomas are benign, they look very similar to serious skin conditions like malignant melanoma, so you'll need to see your dermatologist to have your papules examined.

Why do they form?

Angiokeratomas occur when the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) within your skin become dilated, and to stop the vessels from dilating any further, the skin becomes thickened and hardened. Researchers still aren't sure what causes this process. One theory is that increased pressure on your veins can lead to angiokeratomas. This increased pressure can be caused by things like hernias, tumors, or trauma. However, many people with angiokeratomas don't exhibit this increased pressure, so this theory doesn't explain every case.

What complications can angiokeratomas cause?

Since angiokeratomas consist of dilated blood vessels, they may bleed suddenly, according to NIH. This can happen spontaneously or it can happen in response to trauma, like the friction of your clothes against your lesions. If your lesions start bleeding, treat them like any other wound and apply pressure to stop the bleeding.

How are angiokeratomas treated?

If your lesions are small, your dermatologist can remove them with electrocauterization. During this procedure, an electrified probe will be placed against your lesions to burn and seal the capillaries. While being treated with electricity may seem scary, a grounding pad will be placed on your thigh beforehand to protect you from harm. This treatment destroys the lesions.

If your lesions are large, they'll need to be surgically removed. Wide, deep excision is necessary to remove the entirety of these large lesions, and afterwards, grafting will be required to repair the surgical sites.

Recurrences are rare, so once your angiokeratomas have been removed, it's likely that they're gone for good. However, if your lesions recur, your dermatologist can repeat the treatment to get rid of them for good.

If you think you have angiokeratomas, see your dermatologist (like Henry E. Wiley, III, M.D.) right away.