Kaposi Sarcoma: Symptoms

Kaposi sarcoma (KS) might not cause symptoms in its early stages. When KS does cause symptoms, they can include the following.

Lesions on the skin, in the mouth, or in the genital area

KS lesions normally start out as purple, red, or brown spots. The lesions are often not painful. They might be flat or raised. Sometimes they grow as lumps just below the skin and don't have an abnormal color. KS lesions most often start on the feet or legs, on the face, inside the mouth, or on the genitals.

Lesions inside the mouth often appear on the roof of the mouth or on the gums. Chewing food may cause the lesions to bleed. Or it may even be painful and lead to trouble eating.

Lesions in other parts of the body

KS lesions can also appear inside the body, such as in the digestive tract or in the lungs. If these lesions grow large enough, they might cause symptoms.

  • Digestive system problems. KS lesions can develop in the esophagus, stomach, intestines, or other part of the digestive tract. Sometimes, these lesions can cause nausea, belly (abdominal) pain, and bleeding, which might show up as dark or black stools. Lesions in this part of the body may also interfere with food digestion, leading to diarrhea and weight loss. In rare cases, lesions can cause blockages in the digestive tract. This makes it hard to have a bowel movement. 

  • Coughing, wheezing, or breathing problems. Lesions may also grow in your lungs. Lung lesions can cause chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. You may even cough up blood. 

Lymphedema

The lymph (lymphatic) system is a network of tiny vessels and small organs called lymph nodes. The system carries lymph all over the body. Lymph is a clear fluid that contains a few blood cells. The lymph system is part of your immune system. It helps protect you and keep you healthy. It filters and drains lymph and cell waste away from each body area.

In some people with KS, the lymph nodes or lymph vessels become blocked. Fluid may collect and cause swelling in nearby areas of your body. This swelling is called lymphedema. It may happen even when no lesions are on the skin. Swelling may happen in different parts of the body:

  • In the legs and feet. This may make walking painful.

  • In or around the genitals

  • Around the eyes

When to see your healthcare provider

Many of these symptoms can be caused by other health problems. But it is important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell if you have KS.

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