Pyogenic granulomas are common skin growths that are small and usually reddish in color. They tend to bleed because they contain a very large number of blood vessels. They’re also known as lobular capillary hemangiomas.
These growths mainly affect children and young adults, although they can develop in people of all ages. They are also fairly common in pregnant women—the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy can cause these growths to develop.
They’re benign (noncancerous) and can be safely removed through various methods.
A pyogenic granuloma starts off as a lesion with a rapid growth period that usually lasts a few weeks. It then becomes a raised reddish or yellowish nodule that is typically smaller than 2 centimeters. The growth you have can appear smooth or it might have a crusty or rough surface—particularly if it bleeds a lot.
Pyogenic granulomas are commonly found on the hands, fingers, arms, face, and neck. They can also grow on your lips, eyelids, back, and genitals. They occur mostly on the face and neck area.
In rare cases, they can grow on the conjunctiva or cornea in your eye. The conjunctiva is the clear tissue over the white area of your eye. The cornea is the clear covering over your pupil and iris.
When they occur in pregnant women, they usually grow on the gums and are called “pregnancy tumors.”
The name “pyogenic granuloma” comes from the word “pyogenic” which refers to a discharge of pus and “granuloma” which refers to a growth containing immune cells. (Greenberg, 2005) Pyogenic granulomas are a sub-type of granulomas and contain blood vessels, not white blood cells, and they bleed, rather than ooze pus.
These growths mostly occur after injuries, but the reason for this isn’t known. They can also develop from trauma caused by bug bites or from scratching your skin roughly or frequently. They can appear when you’re pregnant due to the hormonal changes your body goes through.
Frequent bleeding is the most common type of complication. Pyogenic granulomas can also grow back after being removed. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology states that this happens in up to half of all cases, especially in young adults with pyogenic granulomas in the upper back area. (AOCD) In rare cases, several lesions can appear in the area where the pyogenic granuloma was removed. If the granuloma was not removed completely, the remaining parts can spread to your blood vessels in the same area.
Your doctor might be able to diagnose a pyogenic granuloma based on its appearance. Your doctor might do a biopsy, which involves taking a tissue sample, for a more accurate diagnosis. A biopsy also helps rule out malignant, or cancerous, medical conditions that can cause this kind of growth, such as squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Small Pyogenic Granulomas
You might not need treatment for small pyogenic granulomas. These often go away on their own.
Large Pyogenic Granulomas
If you have a bigger growth, your doctor will most likely scrape it off and lightly cauterize or burn it. Cauterizing helps stop bleeding and can reduce the risk of having it grow back.
The most effective way to remove pyogenic granulomas involves surgically removing the entire growth and using stitches to close the wound. (AOCD) This is a more invasive procedure than scraping one off.
Alternatively, your doctor might apply a chemical, such as silver nitrate, to the pyogenic granuloma to help with the bleeding.
These growths can also be removed using laser surgery.
Pyogenic Granulomas on the Eye
Pyogenic granulomas that grow on your eye can be surgically removed or treated with ointments containing corticosteroids, which help reduce inflammation.
Pyogenic Granulomas During Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, your doctor might recommend waiting to see if these growths disappear on their own after delivery.
Written by: Amanda Delgado
Published on Jul 12, 2012
Updated on Feb 15, 2013
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD