A lymphangioma is a malformation that occurs in the lymphatic system. They are mainly seen in children under the age of two and many are diagnosed in the womb. Although they can occur anywhere in the body, about 90% are found in the head and neck. They present as a mass and are benign. If they are removed it is usually done for cosmetic reasons as they rarely pose any medical threats.
There are many types and classifications of lymphangioma and the symptoms vary based on the type of lymphangioma that is present. There are three main types and these are lymphangioma circumscriptum, cavernous lymphangioma and cystic hygoma.
Lymphangioma circumscriptum symptoms appear as a cluster of small blisters that vary in color from pink to various shades of red. Symptoms of cavernous lymphangioma include a bulge or mass on the neck, lips or tongue. The mass can be small or large and is often present at birth. The mass can also be many different colors including white, pink, or black. Cystic hygoma are generally softer than the other types of lymphangioma and appear to be swollen. 75% of these are found on the neck.
Types of Lymphangioma
Lymphangioma are mainly classified by what they look like under a microscope, what they are made of and where on the body they appear. They can also be classified by their cause. This includes congenital lymphangioma that result from abnormal chromosomes and also acquired lymphangioma that are the result of trauma or inflammation.
Lymphangioma are also categorized in stages based on where they appear in relation to the hyoid bone and whether or not they occur on one or both sides of the body. The hyoid bone is a bone located in the neck. As an example a stage I lymphangioma is “unilateral infrahyoid,” meaning it is only on one side of the body and it is found below the hyoid bone. Stage V is “bilateral suprahyoid and infrahyoid.” This indicates that the lymphangioma is located on both sides of the body and also above and below the hyoid bone.
Other types of lymphangioma include:
Capillary lymphangioma – These are made up of small lymphatic vessels found in the epidermis.
Cavernous lymphangioma – Cavernous lymphangioma are comprised of dilated lymphatic channels. They can invade the tissues around them.
Cystic hygoma (Cystic Lymphangioma) – These are large masses filled with liquid.
Microcystic, Macrocystic and Mixed lymphangioma – As the name implies these lymphangioma are comprised of cysts. Microcystic lymphangioma is made up of cysts smaller than 2cm3 and macrocystic occur when the cysts are larger than 2cm3. Mixed lymphangioma is when there are both small and large cysts present.