What are Cherry Hemangiomas?
Cherry hemangiomas are a benign nuisance condition. They are the most common type of angioma; angiomas are collections of vascular tissue that form as a mutation, similar to a tumor. Some angiomas are malignant or are a sign of underlying malignancy, but cherry hemangiomas almost never are. Cherry hemangiomas are also called senile angiomas and Campbell de Morgan spots. They manifest as small red papules and are generally associated with aging.
Cherry hemangiomas are spontaneous. They appear without apparent cause, although there are a number of influencing traits and conditions associated with them. All in all, cherry hemangiomas are a nuisance more than anything else, although this does not mean that individuals do not rightfully seek treatment to be done with them.
Who gets Cherry Hemangiomas?
Cherry hemangiomas can afflict literally anyone. They are spontaneous and may appear without apparent cause, more than likely as a result of a very minor cell mutation. Cherry hemangiomas are not malignant, nor are they usually signs of malignancy, which means that they are most commonly associated with a few statistical traits, the significance of which is not completely understood. The cause and ultimate root of cherry hemangiomas has been the subject of very limited study, primarily because they are simply not that monumental of a skin condition to be concerned about treatment and curing.
That said, the statistics for cherry hemangiomas indicate that they are relatively indiscriminate. While there are significant differences between the biology of male and female skin, primarily due to hormonal influence, the rate of cherry hemangioma incidence is equal between males and females. In addition, despite the differences in skin health between various racial and ethnic groups, individuals of all races are similarly equally likely to suffer from cherry hemangiomas.
The primary influencing factor that leads to cherry hemangiomas seems to be age. Cherry hemangiomas grow increasingly more and more likely with age, frequently approaching inevitability in very aged individuals. It is not fully understood why these hemangiomas are so much more likely in elderly individuals, but it is likely because cherry hemangiomas stem from an underlying cell mutation. Mutations grow more and more common and more and more rife throughout the system as individuals age and accumulate more and more exposure to free radicals and radiation.
What causes Cherry Hemangiomas?
Cherry hemangiomas are spontaneous. In effect this means that they have no direct cause. Nearly all hemangiomas manifest for no apparent reason, especially in elderly individuals. While there naturally must be a cause to cherry hemangiomas, something underlying them (because even spontaneous ailments must have a root biological cause, even if that cause is extremely common or arbitrary), not much research has been devoted to understanding them. This is primarily because cherry hemangiomas are of almost no medical importance. There is almost no interest in studying them simply because they are innocuous, and anything that truly underpinned them and brought them about would likely be too deep-rooted to cure: there’s no reason to quest for gene therapy for cherry hemangiomas, and a lot more reason and point to studying cancer, which desperately needs a cure.
That said, there are a number of theories as to the origin of cherry hemangiomas, and there has been at least one study done at the time of this writing which indicates that cherry hemangiomas seem to manifest as a result of skin mutation. The full nature of this skin mutation is not fully understood, but it exists at the cellular level and has to do with how cells reproduce themselves. Because cherry hemangiomas and angiomas as a whole are caused by the formation of excess veinous tissue, this is a more than reasonable and likely proposition. It also leads to the frequent concern that cherry hemangiomas are the result of some kind of malignancy, like a cancer. This is an understandable fear, as malignant hemangiomas are not any better than tumors to deal with, and can bleed profusely, which makes treatment significantly more complicated (especially when they are mistaken for tumors initially, which can result in a routine surgery becoming something of a mess). All this said, the only link between cherry hemangiomas and malignancy seems to be that they become much more common and may appear suddenly in great numbers if there is a relevant underlying malignancy.
While cherry hemangiomas themselves are spontaneous, there are a number of chemicals that are linked to the incidence of cherry hemangiomas. This does not disqualify cherry hemangiomas as spontaneous because it is not a requirement that these chemicals be brought to the fore; simply an indicator that cherry hemangiomas may be much more likely in the immediate future. Among these chemicals are bromides, 2-butoxyethanol, cyclosporine and mustard gas. There is also a strong observed correlation between cherry hemangiomas and the enzyme carbonic anydrase, but correlatio does not always mean direct causation. It could be that both have the same underlying cause and that may not be clear for some time.
Bromides are no longer very common in their raw forms outside of various forms of industry, but they were once widely used as a type of sedative. This is no longer the case in the United States or much of the West, but there are still a number of pharmacies in various countries which still sell bromide-derived salts as sedatives, some of which may be available over the counter and others which may require the prescription and blessing of a medical professional. Cherry hemangiomas may be more likely in individuals that still use these bromide-derived products for sedation purposes. Bromides in other forms are naturally found in the blood in relatively low concentrations, however, and there are several other ways to encounter them. Bromide is found in fairly dense concentrations in sea water, and as consequence, in many types of sea food. This means that there may be some incidence between high consumption of seafood and the presentation of cherry hemangiomas on the skin, but only by way of concentrations of bromide in the system being correlated to cherry hemangiomas; this is not to say that sea food in and of itself can cause cherry hemangiomas.
2-butoxylethanol is a solvent found in many forms of paint. It is also common in many different cleaning products, and gives the signature scent to many chemicals that are mistaken for ammonia, including name brands like Windex. It is unclear how 2-butoxylethanol exposure in quantities strong enough to provoke a symptom like cherry hemangiomas may occur, but it follows that there is a solid correlation between cherry hemangiomas and 2-butoxylethanol.
Mustard gas is a well-known chemical weapon. It was made infamous during World War 1. Mustard gas is much heavier than air, which allowed it to sink into the trenches that were employed for warfare during that time. Mustard gas has been heavily decried as inhumane and there are a number of treaties against its use. It causes extreme lung damage and is almost always fatal. However, it has very strong mutagenic properties, which may explain the nature of its correlation to cherry hemangiomas, which seem to depend on an underlying cellular mutation to begin to occur. Mustard gas does not actually have anything to do with mustard; it is called this because of its appearance and scent when used in impure forms as for warfare. There is no correlation between mustard plants and cherry hemangiomas.
Ciclosporin is an immunosuppressant drug. It is used most commonly in transplant patients to prevent major organ rejections. It reduces the ability of the immune system to act, which is very beneficial when the immune system is attempting to do something that would be harmful to the rest of the body, as can occur in transplant rejection and in various autoimmune conditions. Oddly, ciclosporin is used to manage atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, which are also major skin conditions, although significantly different from cherry hemangiomas and generally much more serious. The link between ciclosporin and cherry hemangiomas is not completely clear, however; it may be that there is a correlation between one of ciclosporin’s effects and cherry hemangiomas that is not completely causal.
All in all, the lack of research on hand makes anything more than conjecture based on correlation relatively futile. It is likely that cherry hemangiomas will be completely understood in the future, but as it stands, there is simply very little interest in studying them, and consequently very little grant money forwarded to deal with them. This makes them somewhat unpopular and even difficult to pursue.
What do Cherry Hemangiomas cause?
Cherry hemangiomas are scarcely more than nuisances but this does not, unfortunately, mean that they are asymptomatic. Cherry hemangiomas are responsible for quite a lot of pain and, more messily, bleeding.
Cherry hemangiomas, when they form, are nothing more than malformed inappropriate clusters of vascular tissue. In the case of cherry hemangiomas, they are made of tightly-packed capillary veins. This means that if anything should damage them, they will bleed profusely; despite being relatively small, they are a direct conduit to the blood supply. This is still not enough blood to make blood loss or shock an issue (they obviously aren’t anything like an artery or other major blood supply organ; they simply aren’t big enough), but it is more than enough to ruin clothing and stain skin and destroy carpeting and, in the worst cases, spread infectious diseases. The reason for this profuse bleeding is because the capillaries that make up the hemangioma are so close to the surface of the skin. This is ultimately the result of all of the hemangioma’s symptoms: cherry hemangiomas would likely be asymptomatic if they did not most commonly form on the surface of the skin where they can get in the way and make themselves a nuisance vulnerable to rupture.
When they form, cherry hemangiomas are papules. Papules are small dome-shaped protrusions from the surface of the skin that always manifest as red, or more rarely deeper purple. This redness is because they are blood-filled. There are obviously a number of conditions that can cause papules, but they tend to be more pronounced with cherry hemangiomas, primarily as a result of the veinous tissue and subsequent bleeding symptoms. Cherry hemangiomas are frequently not painful as they begin to form, but may become so as they get bigger.
When they initially become visible, cherry hemangiomas are generally less than a fifth, or even a tenth of a millimeter in diameter. This is tiny and barely big enough for the eye to see unaided. As they grow, however, they can be expected to reach sizes of one or two millimeters in size, sometimes larger; it is at this increased scale that they frequently become more dome-shaped and pronounced.
Cherry hemangiomas may rupture easily due to their swollen nature. This can produce profuse bleeding, although the blood loss is not a major danger as they are so small, and there is nothing about them that prevents clotting from occurring even without treatment. However, this does produce an open sore that leaves individuals with cherry hemangiomas temporarily susceptible to secondary infections. This holds especially true for elderly patients, as they are much more likely to have weaker immune systems and are thus much more likely to contract other bacteria or viruses. Cherry hemangioma rupture also carries the risk of spreading other infectious diseases. While cherry hemangiomas are not contagious and do not seem to stem from any contagious pathogen, this still poses a huge risk for infecting others for individuals who suffer from hepatitis or other blood-borne ailments.
What does Cherry Hemangioma treatment look like?
Treatment for cherry hemangiomas is generally not required. Cherry hemangiomas are benign and harmless aside from their nuisance traits. It is only when cherry hemangiomas begin to manifest rapidly and in extremely high numbers that there is trouble, and the trouble stems from the underlying cause of the hemangiomas in that case, which may very well be a malignancy. Even so, there are a number of individuals frustrated enough with cherry hemangiomas that they find their best option for dealing with them is to simply have them removed or otherwise treated directly. Treating hemangiomas directly can be done in several forms.
The first option for treating cherry hemangiomas mirrors treatments for warts and skin tags: cryosurgery. Cryosurgery is the use of extreme cold to kill off unwanted tissue. In the case of a wart, cryosurgery is employed on the wart itself; in the case of a skin tag, the cold is applied to the skin tag. In this case, the comparison to a skin tag is more apt: skin tags are benign tumors, much in the way that cherry hemangiomas are benign malformations of vascular tissue not unlike tumors (thus leading to the widespread concern about their link to malignant ailments). Cryosurgery functions by instantly killing the affected areas of skin. There are two options available for cryosurgery. The first must be performed by a professional, and is done with liquid nitrogen. Nitrogen is an atmospheric gas that everything on earth breathes every day; getting it down into liquid form involves hypercooling it. This makes it extremely chilly when applied to the skin, much lower than any winter temperature ever could be, and it can cause instant damage to the skin if misused, which is why a medical professional must perform such an operation. The application of liquid nitrogen to the hemangioma itself can destroy the vascular tissues that form it and do away with the hemangioma entirely. The other option for cryosurgery is over-the-counter. There are a number of chemical agents, some of them specialized for hemangiomas, that operate by causing an endothermic reaction when they mix. This results in the leeching of thermal energy from the hemangioma, same as with liquid nitrogen. However, the over-the-counter products are not anywhere near as strong or as cold as liquid nitrogen, which can make them significantly less effective in some circumstances.
Cryosurgery always carries two risks. The first is that of accurate application. This is less of a problem for medical professionals, who have the tools to be exacting with their application of liquid nitrogen, and more of a problem for individuals using over-the-counter products. Many products of this nature are equipped with unwieldy large applicators that make it extremely difficult to accurately apply the cooling agents to the locations they belong. This is a necessity of the technology, and smaller applicators are being made, but it is a problem even in warts, which are much bigger than cherry hemangiomas.
The second risk of cryosurgery is, naturally, scarring. Scarring is a risk that comes with any surgery, however, and some may find the prospect of a minor scar preferable to the presence of a stubborn hemangioma prone to bleeding if ruptured.
The next option for surgical methods is laser surgery. This, again, mirrors skin tags and warts. There are two primary options for laser surgery. The first is a carbon laser. Carbon lasers are very intense, and act on the H20 in cells. This could nearly be thought of as boiling the hemangioma away, although this would be a poorly imprecise way to explain it. In effect, however, carbon lasers are used to burn the hemangioma away completely and directly. This also carries the added benefit of preventing any bleeding before it can even start. The other option for lasers is the pulse dye laser. Pulse dye lasers are significantly lower powered, but act on a much narrower band of the cells, attacking the hemangioma more than any of the surrounding skin. This significantly reduces the odds of scarring, which is higher with laser surgery than cryosurgery. As one can probably imagine, neither of these surgeries are viable for home use. However, laser surgery is become more commonplace and affordable.
Infrared pulse light is capable of treating the cherry hemangiomas that require treatment, although it is not used as frequently. Infrared pulse light therapy uses intense infrared beams in, as indicated, short pulses. This burns away the hemangioma in a subtler fashion and is significantly less likely to cause long-term scarring.
Electrosurgery is an option in many cases. Electrosurgery operates by passing a significant current through the cherry hemangioma, which effectively destroys it. This fashion of destruction is not at all unlike destruction brought on by laser. Electrosurgery is significantly more common than other forms of surgery and is one of the traditional solutions. However, the effectiveness can be somewhat lower, and electrosurgery can be expensive and time-consuming, which means that it is generally reserved only for the most meticulous jobs, likely when there are a number of cherry hemangiomas to remove in sequence.
More recently, treatment options have been researched involving the inhibition of particular chemicals which have been linked to the formation of cherry hemangiomas. It remains to be seen how far this rabbit hole goes, but it is thought to be a more direct means by which to prevent them and get rid of them alike, which would make it an ideal choice for individuals that are aging and finding themselves susceptible to them. Even so, progress is still limited by interest, and interest is low due to the relatively benign nature of cherry hemangiomas. While they can indicate underlying issues, they only do so rarely; there are far more powerful and indicative signs and symptoms of major illnesses to research in lieu of cherry hemangiomas.
How do I know if I have Cherry Hemangiomas?
Cherry hemangiomas can be easily identified by their nature: they are papules that form on the skin carrying a deep red or purple hue. They start imperceptibly small but grow to be one or two millimeters in diameter—still very small, but much more noticeable in the form of a dome raised from the skin. If ruptured, they are likely to bleed quite a bit, as the capillaries that feed them are right at the surface of the skin.
For what it’s worth, cherry hemangiomas can be identified by sight easily. However, a medical professional can provide a positive diagnosis rather easily, as well, and may wish to do so if a very large number of cherry hemangiomas have made themselves manifest in a short span of time.