What is Lymphangioma?

Lymphangiomas are a swelling or mass that usually occurs in the head, neck or mouth area. A lymphangioma is the result of a congenital condition and is usually apparent at birth or by the time the patient reaches the age of two.


What is the cause of a lymphangioma?


A lymphangioma is believed to occur due to an abnormal development of the lymphatic system when the baby is in the womb, however the exact cause of a lymphangioma is unknown in most cases. Cystic lymphangioma may occur due to a genetic syndrome, such as Noonan syndrome, Turner syndrome and Down syndrome.


Types of lymphangiomas


Macrocystic

These are bigger than 2 cm and have defined boarders. these can often appear as reddish-blue, spongy masses.


Microcystic

These are smaller than 2 cm and may grow in clusters and appear like tiny blisters.


Combined or mixed

As the name suggests, this is a combination of the two other types of lymphangioma that have been highlighted above.



Signs and symptoms of a lymphangioma


· Painless swelling in the neck or face area

· In more serious cases cysts can become painful and inflamed


Lymphangiomas are non-cancerous tumours of the lymphatic system. Although they are no cancerous, they can be life threatening if they affect the throat or mouth area, as it can hinder breathing. However lymphangiomas are rarely fatal, with only 3% mortality rate.


Diagnosis and treatments for lymphangiomas


In some cases, a diagnosis can be made before the child is born as an ultrasound can pick up the abnormality. If it is notices after birth, scans can be done to ensure that the right diagnosis is given and evaluate the impact. In some cases the lymphangioma is not visible until they reach a later age, so cannot be diagnosed at birth.

For mild cases, the doctor may advise against treatment as it can be more invasive than necessary. If the lymphangioma is large and uncomfortable for the child, it is likely that it will be treated. Treatment plans will change depending on the case.


Possible treatments


Surgery

Cutting out the cyst, this can only be done if it is not near an organ or nerve.


Sclerotherapy

This involves injecting a chemical into the affected area that will shrink and flatten the mass. Sclerotherapy has the same success rate as surgery, however has less complications so is a more popular treatment used.


Laser therapy or radiofrequency ablation

A laser or needle, used to deliver a current that will destroy the mass.


In many cases, the treatment used will not remove all of the affected cells, meaning that it is likely for there to be a regrowth. This can mean that treatments have to be done multiple times over the patient’s life.


This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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Domenico Valenti produced by 2xN Limited

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