A glomus tumor is a rare, usually benign skin growth that typically affects young adults between the ages of 20 and 30.
These lesions are small in size, and commonly found on the hand or fingers, although they sometimes appear on the timpanic membrane or other areas of soft tissue on the body. They are often painful and have a bluish color to them, although sometimes they have a whitish appearance.
These tumors are more commonly known as paraganglioma. They affect women two to three times more than men.
Signs & Symptoms
Glomus tumors can appear on the skin individually or in small groups—the solitary lesions are usually the most painful. These lesions often appear under the fingernail and raise the entire nail bed.
These tumors are most often detected because of severe pain in the affected area:
- Short, intense bursts of pain described as “burning” or “bursting”
- Extreme sensitivity to cold
Two ways to indicate the existence of a glomus tumor are as follows:
- Hildreth’s test—subsidence or disappearance of pain after removing a tourniquet on the arm
- Love’s test—causing pain by applying pressure to the area with a pencil tip
Most glomus tumors will shrink and disappear on their own. If they persist, the most common treatment for solitary tumors is surgical excision, depending on the location of the tumor.
Most solitary tumors can be removed with no trouble and no recurrence. If the entire lesion is not removed, it is likely to reappear. Patients have an excellent prognosis and recover completely. More than half of the glomus tumors that affect patients are benign.
One exception is the rare glomangiosarcoma tumor, which can be malignant. This lesion can metastasize, but this is unusual. Treatment for these lesions is also surgical excision and vigilant observation.