What is a cherry angioma?
Have you noticed small, red dots on your skin that seem to come out of nowhere? Maybe you tried to think of when you injured yourself, but then, days or even weeks later, the red dot is still there, so injury seems an unlikely cause. It could be a cherry angioma.
Don’t worry. Cherry angiomas don’t indicate skin cancer. These small, bright cherry-red spots are noncancerous skin lesions—and they are common, especially in people over the age of 40. Although they don’t go away on their own, they aren’t dangerous, according to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
It’s still important to keep an eye on them, and you can have them removed if needed. In this article, learn: how to identify cherry angiomas, what causes them, and how to treat them.
What is an angioma?
Angiomas are noncancerous, common skin growths made up of blood vessels, resembling a red mole. There are three main types of angiomas, according to Kaiser Permanente:
Cherry angiomas: These are also called senile angioma, Campbell de Morgan spots, or de Morgan spots. Cherry angiomas appear on any part of the body but usually appear on the trunk.
Spider angiomas: These have red dot centers and groups of dilated blood vessels around it, like a spider web. They’re common in children, people with liver disease, and they frequently appear during pregnancy in women who take birth control pills. Spider angiomas appear most often on the face and chest.
Venous lakes: These appear on the lips and ears and are usually bluish but can be red or purple. They are most common in men over 65 who have had extensive sun exposure.
Cherry angiomas are the most common type of angioma. They are not cancerous or harmful. They are small—anywhere from the size of a pinhead to about one-fourth inch. Although they are usually bright red (as their name implies), they can also be bluish, purple, or almost black. Some people have a single cherry angioma, while others have clusters; others have hundreds. They usually increase in both size and number after the age of 40.
When should I be concerned about cherry angiomas?
One exception is when a purpuric halo surrounds hemangiomas. This light reddish or purple coloring surrounding the angioma could indicate primary systemic amyloidosis, according to a study published in 2018. Amyloidosis is a rare but serious disease that results when the protein amyloid builds up in organs and causes their functioning to decrease. If you notice a halo around an angioma, speak to your doctor.
Cherry angiomas can sometimes occur on the scalp, according to a report published in Case Reports in Dermatology. The researchers indicate this is an unusual location; however, they could go unnoticed because hair often covers the scalp, and they are asymptomatic.
Cherry angioma causes
The cause of cherry angiomas is mostly unknown; however, they do tend to run in families according to MedlinePlus. Research on the origins of cherry angiomas has pointed to a few associations:
Age: Incidence of cherry angioma increases in adults over the age of 30 years. One study found that 75% of adults older than 75 had cherry angiomas.
Underlying conditions: Research studies show that people with cherry angioma may have higher total cholesterol levels.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding: An increase in prolactin, as seen in women after pregnancy, might increase the chance of developing cherry angiomas.
Liver damage and disease: A study completed in 2015 found that cherry angiomas can predict nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). There were 340 participants with cherry angiomas in the study, all over the age of 40. Researchers found 238 had been diagnosed with NAFLD, indicating that those with cherry angiomas might benefit from screening for liver disease. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology also suggests that when cherry angiomas are present in large numbers, it can be a warning of liver damage.
Cherry angioma treatment
Cherry angiomas rarely require treatment. “They are completely benign,” explains Laura McGevna Nelson, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor at the University of Vermont Medical Center. “However, sometimes we should pay close attention to them, such as when they are eruptive, or a number of them develop over a short time. This can indicate an internal disease. The skin gives us signs, and if we pay attention, it can show us when there is something wrong internally.”
Seek medical advice if they bleed or change in appearance. Because of the possible link with liver disease, you should let your healthcare provider know if you develop cherry angiomas. A dermatologist can usually diagnose patients with a quick and painless examination. A skin biopsy is rarely needed.
Besides their appearance, cherry angiomas rarely have other symptoms. Some might occasionally bleed, especially if injured. Treatment is not typically necessary, but based on the amount and location, some people prefer to remove them for cosmetic reasons. You should check with your insurance company as these procedures might not be a covered expense.
How do dermatologists remove cherry angiomas?
Cherry angiomas can be removed by a dermatologist when necessary or if you want it removed for cosmetic reasons. The main methods for removal are:
Electrodesiccation surgery (electrocautery, burning): This method uses an electrical needle-like instrument to deliver heat and electricity to the angioma to seal the blood vessels.
Cryotherapy: This method uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the angioma. Freezing is not as precise as the other methods and can leave a small mark on your skin.
Laser treatment: An intense beam of light removes the angioma. This method targets specific blood vessels and might be less painful than electrosurgery.
Shave excision: This method uses a scalpel to shave the cherry angioma off in thin slivers until it’s gone.
Can I remove a cherry angioma at home?
You should never try to burn, freeze, or shave one off at home as it can be dangerous. Only trained medical professionals should use these methods. You might also find some natural remedies for removing cherry angiomas at home. Some of the ingredients in these include apple cider vinegar, iodine, dandelion root, castor oil, chamomile oil, and clay. Most of these ingredients will not cause damage if you dilute and apply them to your skin; however, there isn’t any scientific evidence that they are effective. Before using home remedies for cherry angiomas, you should talk with your healthcare provider.