Lymphangioma: Diagnosis and treatment
The Gaza Post|The News of Palestine
A lymphangioma is a swelling or mass that occurs mainly in the head, neck, and mouth.
Lymphangiomas are the result of a congenital condition and are usually apparent at birth, or at least by the time a person is 2 years old.
What is a lymphangioma?
A lymphangioma can affect any part of the body but usually occurs on the head, neck, or mouth. The swelling is made up of one or many fluid-filled sacs that are caused by a problem with the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and is made up of a network of tubes known as lymph vessels. These vessels transport a fluid called lymph around the body and into the bloodstream.
Lymph nodes positioned around the lymphatic system help rid the body of infection and inflammation.
Lymphangiomas and certain other types of masses related to the lymphatic system are known as lymphatic malformations. These swellings or masses are benign and not associated with cancer.
Causes and risk factors
Lymphangiomas are caused by abnormal development of the lymphatic system, but exactly why this happens is unknown.
A lymphangioma is described as a “somatic mutation,” meaning that it affects the genes but is not an inherited condition.
Lymphangiomas can also occur as part of another condition, including:
- Noonan syndrome
- Turner syndrome
- Down syndrome
Lymphatic malformations can occur in both males and females of any race. They are a rare condition affecting around 1 in 4,000 newborns.
In general, lymphangiomas do not cause any medical problems. However, because of their prominence on the face and neck, they can affect a person’s appearance.
Also, more serious complications can occur, including:
- breathing problems when swellings in the neck press on the airway
- difficulty swallowing or speaking
- inflammation or cellulitis
- double vision if the eye socket is affected
- wheezing and chest pain if the chest is affected
Lymphangiomas usually occur in one localized area. Occasionally, they can be widespread throughout the body.
While the swelling will often be present at birth, it may be too small to see at first. In these cases, the lymphatic malformation grows as the infant grows.
The appearance of lymphangiomas can vary from small patches to large swellings, depending on how much fluid they contain.
There are three types of lymphatic malformations:
- Macrocystic: A large, fluid-filled pocket or pockets under the skin. The skin appears red or bluish. Macrocystic lymphatic malformations are more than 2 centimeters (cm) in diameter and usually occur on the neck. They can also affect the chest, armpit, or groin.
- Microcystic: A group of small, fluid-filled sacs that can occur anywhere on the body. The skin is red or bluish, and the mass grows in proportion with the child.
- Mixed: A combination of macrocystic and microcystic lymphatic malformations.