Symptoms of Kaposi’s sarcoma

The symptoms of Kaposi’s sarcoma vary depending on the parts of the body that are affected. The skin and internal organs are most commonly affected.

The skin

Any part of the skin, including inside the mouth, can be affected by Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Small, painless flat areas (lesions) usually develop first. The lesions can be different colours, including brown, red, blue and purple. They can look similar to bruises but, unlike bruises, they don’t lose their colour when they’re pressed.

The lesions are the result of many abnormal cell growths (tumours) affecting small blood vessels under the skin.

Lesions inside the mouth can make speaking and eating more difficult. They can also bleed if they are damaged when chewing.

Although Kaposi’s sarcoma growths usually start in one place, they can develop in more than one area. Over time, the growths may start to stick out of the skin and may merge into each other.

The internal organs

The internal organs most commonly affected by Kaposi’s sarcoma are the lymph nodes, lungs and the digestive system. The symptoms depend on which organs are affected.

When the lymph nodes are affected, there may be swelling in the arms and legs, which can be very painful and uncomfortable.

This is known as lymphoedema. It is caused by tumours blocking the flow of fluid through the lymph nodes. As a result, the fluid in the tissue backs up, causing swelling in the body’s tissues.

In cases where the lungs are affected, symptoms may include breathlessness and coughing up blood.

Where the digestive system is affected, symptoms can include feeling sick (nausea), vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhoea.

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