What Are Cherry Angiomas?

They may possibly be annoying, but they're not harmful.

Lots of little bumps or spots of various colors can pop up on your skin. More common ones include whiteheads or blackheads, moles that can range in colors from pink to blue, 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.

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Getty Images / AdobeStock

While they can certainly look concerning—like a little drop of blood underneath your skin—cherry angiomas aren't a cause for worry. Here's more information about cherry angiomas, including treatment options.

What Exactly Are Cherry Angiomas?

Cherry angiomas are fairly common, benign (noncancerous) skin growths, according to MedlinePlus. They can appear anywhere on the body but most commonly show up on the trunk or arms and are rare on the hands, feet, and face, according to StatPearls. They can show up on skin that has been exposed to the sun and skin that hasn't.

These red, dome-shaped spots are usually 1 to 5 mm in size (from about the size of a pinhead to less than 1/4 inch). They are also surrounded by a pale circle of skin called a halo. And it is not uncommon for multiple spots to show up together.

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 in Miami, told Health. "They are small, reddish, and come in various sizes."

Cherry angiomas go by many names. They are also known as Campbell de Morgan spots or de Morgan spots, named after a British surgeon by the same name. A dermatologist, or skin specialist, might refer to them as cherry hemangiomas, which is derived from Greek and basically means a mass of blood vessels ("hem" means blood, "angio" means vessels, and "oma" means mass or growth). Another derogatory name for them is senile angiomas—that's because they are commonly associated with getting older, usually popping up after age 30, per MedlinePlus.

In fact, they are so common in adults that 75% of people over 75 years of age will have cherry angiomas, as per StatPearls. In contrast, only about 7% of adolescents will get them. And anytime after your teenage years, you may start to notice more of these red moles. Up to 41% of people start to see cherry angiomas appear in their 20s. Cherry angiomas usually start small and may grow slightly over the years.

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Courtesy of DermNet NZ
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Courtesy of DermNet NZ / Waikato District Health Board

What Causes Cherry Angiomas?

It's not exactly clear why these cherry angiomas appear on the body, but StatPearls has identified three potential causes. Sometimes it's a genetic component. If this is the case, you may have several family members with the same condition. Simply put, aging is also another possible cause of cherry angiomas. And the third possible reason for cherry angiomas to start popping up is pregnancy. For some people, cherry angiomas go away after pregnancy; for others, they don't.

Even if the causes are exactly clear, experts have determined how cherry angiomas 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, told Health. "As the venules dilate, they become red and swollen; [and] when these venules break, they become visible on the surface of the skin as a cherry angioma," said Dr. Green.

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, if the healthcare professional you are seeing suspects that they may be cancerous, the lesion will likely be removed and sent in for lab testing.

It is also possible to get cherry angiomas removed for cosmetic reasons, such as if the spots are in a place that makes you uncomfortable or embarrassed. Getting cherry angiomas removed usually doesn't cause scarring, although sometimes it can. The following procedures can be used to remove cherry angiomas, 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 blood vessels to seal them, according to MedlinePlus.
  • Cryotherapy: This procedure uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy unwanted tissue. Per MedlinePlus, it's a relatively short procedure that comes with some discomfort.
  • Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy: IPL therapy, sometimes known as flashlamp therapy, is non-invasive and non-ablative. It uses high-intensity pulses of light to improve skin problems like acne, rosacea, and skin lesions, as noted in an October 2019 article published in Clinical Optometry.
  • Shave excision: This technique is often used by dermatologists to remove skin lesions that are raised above the skin or are on the top layer of skin, says MedlinePlus.

When To Be Concerned

According to MedlinePlus, cherry angiomas have very few possible complications: Sometimes they can bleed if injured, or they can change appearance. Bleeding after injury is another reason for people to get these red spots removed.

Certain medical conditions may slightly alter the appearance of cherry angiomas. Diabetes is one of them and may cause larger spots, according to StatPearls. And multiple cherry angiomas have been associated with infection in people in nursing homes.

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 happen 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 other spots that appear to be growing or morphing over time, said Dr. Chacon, citing the risk of skin cancer. Dr. Chacon added 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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