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(Lymphatic Malformations)

By Denise M. Aaron, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; Staff Physician, Veterans Administration Medical Center, White River Junction

Lymphangiomas are bumps that form under the skin and are caused by a collection of enlarged lymph vessels, which are the channels that carry lymph (a clear fluid related to blood) throughout the body.

Lymphangiomas are uncommon but usually appear between birth and age 2. They may be tiny bumps or large, deforming growths.

Lymphangiomas do not itch or hurt and are not a form of cancer. Most lymphangiomas are yellowish tan, but a few are reddish or purple. When injured or punctured, they release a colorless or blood-tinged fluid.

Doctors base the diagnosis of lymphangiomas on an examination and the results of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment of lymphangiomas is not usually needed. Removal with surgery is usually not successful because lymphangiomas grow deep and wide beneath the surface and tend to grow back.

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