Red Spots

Lots of women have been Going Red lately. “Go Red” is a campaign to raise awareness of heart disease in women. Some women I see are often going red for a different reason: they’re covered in little red spots called cherry angiomas.

Cherry angiomas are tiny lumps of overgrown blood vessels in the skin. Their name derives from their often bright or deep red color. Like a cherry. Get it?

In your thirties and forties you might have a few. By the time you’re 80, you’ll probably have many (hence their other, more unfortunate name: senile angiomas). They cluster on the chest and back and can number in the hundreds. Although they grow on men and women equally, women are more likely to see a physician to have them checked.

Cherry angiomas are harmless, but many people hate the way they look. Fortunately, they’re easy to treat. Each little red spot represents a tiny, tangled knot of blood vessels. Treatments destroy the tiny vessels, making the red spot disappear.┬áTreatments include:

Liquid nitrogen: A blast of icy cold air freezes the vessels. Often a blister develops the next day and can leave a lightened spot.

Electrocautery: A zap of electricity burns the vessels. It can sometimes leave a tiny scar.

Laser: The blood in the vessels absorbs a blast of light energy, exploding the tiny vessels and removing the spot. The ruptured vessel can cause a bruise that lasts for weeks.

All three methods are effective at removing the red spots, although each hurts a little and each usually requires multiple treatments. The more destructive the treatment, the more likely it is to work the first time, but the more likely it is to leave a scar.

It can be difficult to determine if a red spot on your skin is a harmless cherry angioma or if it is a skin cancer. If you have spots that are changing, bleeding, or multiplying quickly, or if you have any concerns, then you should see a physician.

Photo: Bensonkua (flickr)