What to Know About Cherry Angiomas, or Those Red Moles You Might See on Your Skin
Lots of little bumps or spots of various colors can pop up on your skin—there are some of the more common ones, like whiteheads or blackheads; moles that can range in colors from pink to blue (yes, really); and skin-colored growths called skin tags. But one type of mark might seem a little more alarming than others: a small, dark or light red bump, better known as a cherry angioma.
While they can certainly look concerning—like a little drop of blood underneath your skin—cherry angiomas aren't cause for worry. Cherry angiomas are fairly common, benign skin growths, according to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. They can appear anywhere on the body, but most commonly show up on the trunk or midsection.
These cherry angiomas get their reddish look because they're essentially made up of blood vessels. "Cherry angiomas are benign vascular lesions that are comprised of collections of capillaries," Anna Chacon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with MyPsoriasisTeam, tells Health. "They are small, reddish, and come in various sizes."
What causes cherry angiomas?
Cherry angiomas are sometimes referred to as senile angiomas—that's because they are commonly associated with getting older, usually popping up after age 30, per Mount Sinai. In fact, according to a commentary from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the number of cherry angiomas can increase with age.
Thought it's unclear why these cherry angiomas appear on the body, experts do know how they appear: "Cherry angiomas are formed from the dilation of the venules, [which are] tiny superficial blood vessels," Michele Green, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York, tells Health. "As the venules dilates, they become red and swollen; [and] when these venules break, they become visible on the surface of the skin as a cherry angioma," she says.
Can cherry angiomas be treated or removed?
Because cherry angiomas aren't typically harmful or have symptoms that extend beyond skin color or potential discomfort, they typically don't require treatment. However, you may be able to get cherry angiomas removed for cosmetic reasons through the following procedures, according to Dr. Chacon and Dr. Green:
- Electrocauterization: Also known as electrocautery, this procedure is used to remove unwanted or harmful tissue, and can also burn and seal blood vessels, according to the US National Library of Medicine (MedlinePlus).
- Cryotherapy: This procedure uses extreme cold to freeze and remove unwanted tissue, per the Cleveland Clinic.
- Intense pulsed light: IPL therapy, sometimes known flashlamp therapy, is non-invasive and non-ablative. It uses high-intensity pulses of light to improve skin problems like rosacea, age marks, freckles, and more, per DermNet New Zealand.
- Shave excision: This technique is often used by dermatologists to remove skin lesions that raised above the the skin or are on the top layer of skin, per Mount Sinai.
Are there any complications of cherry angiomas—and can they be mistaken for other conditions?
According to Mount Sinai, cherry angiomas rarely have any complications, but sometimes they can bleed if injured or change appearance.
And while cherry angiomas, again, aren't dangerous, they can be mistaken for other skin conditions that potentially can be. Petechiae are one—these tiny red spots on the skin happens when broken blood vessels begin bleeding into the skin, according to MedlinePlus. Petechiae can be caused by a number of things, including allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders, certain medicines or treatments, and even aging skin. But, according to Dr. Chacon, there's a good way to distinguish cherry angiomas from petechiae: they are usually round and raised.
It's important to keep an eye on any moles or growths that appear to be growing or morphing over time, says Dr. Chacon, citing the risk of skin cancer. She adds that if you have a "noticeable increase in the total number of skin growths present, or if a pre-existing red spot changes in size, shape, color, or starts to bleed, then the area should be evaluated by a dermatologist."
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