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Kaposi's Sarcoma: Causes, Types, Symptoms, Diagnostics and Treatment

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Kaposi's sarcoma, what is it? It is a type of cancer or tumor caused by HHV8 virus. Find out more about the causes of Kaposi's sarcoma, its types, symptoms, how to diagnose kaposi's sarcoma and its treatment here...

What is Kaposi’s sarcoma?

Kaposi’s Sarcoma also called as Kaposi’s Sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a tumor caused by Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8). This is often associated with AIDS. Kaposi’s sarcoma is associated with growth of patches of various abnormal tissues under the skin, lining of mouth, nose, throat, etc.; these patches are either bluish-red or purple in color.

Kaposi's sarcoma Image via wikipedia

Kaposi’s sarcoma - Causes

Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8) also called as Kaposi sarcoma herpsevirus (KSHV), a virus similar to Epstein-Barr virus is the main cause for kaposi’s sarcoma. Endothelial cells are those that line blood and lymphatic vessels; these cells get infected with Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus or KSHV. In Kaposi’s sarcoma, this infection develops into cancer cells. It is not necessary for a person to get Kaposi’s sarcoma if he/she is infected with KSHV.

Kaposi’s sarcoma - Types

Kaposi’s sarcoma is of five types; they are:

1. Classic Kaposi sarcoma or Classic KS: Classic KS commonly appears on toes, legs, ankles and soles; it is more common in men. Classic KS is more common in places like Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, and Middle Eastern heritage.

Kaposi's sarcoma affected area Image via aarphealthcare

2. African cutaneous Kaposi sarcoma: It is endemic in tropical Africa and is prevalent among men who are between the ages of 20 and 50 years.

3. African lymphadenopathic Kaposi sarcoma: This occurs in small children that are below the age of 10 years; as the name suggests, it involves the lymph nodes, with or without skin lesions.

4. AIDS-associated Kaposi sarcoma: It is also called as KS-AIDS; the tumors appear in head, back, neck, muscular palate, and gingiva. In advanced situations, you may find KS-AIDS in stomach, intestines, lymph nodes and lungs.

5. Immunosuppression-assoicated Kaposi sarcoma: This resembles Classic KS in many ways.

Kaposi’s sarcoma - Symptoms

Symptoms for Kaposi’s sarcoma include:

1. The skin: The areas commonly affected are the lower limbs, back, face, mouth and genitalia. A person affected with KS may find lumps or lesions in colors like brown, pink, reddish purple and blue; some of these lumps look like bruises. Lesions occur in one place and soon would spread to different areas of the skin.

2. Mouth: Majority of the times mouth is affected in the case AIDS-associate KS. The hard palate and the gums are the areas that get affected easily; some may even experience severe bleeding when eating or speaking.

3. Gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts: When gastrointestinal tract is infected with KS it leads to abnormal weight loss, nausea, vomiting, intestinal obstruction, vomiting blood or blood in stools, etc. In the case of respiratory tract infection, a person may experience shortness of breath, fever, chest pain, blood during cough, etc.

Kaposi’s sarcoma - Diagnostics

How to diagnose Kaposi’s sarcoma? There are various tests available to diagnose Kaposi’s sarcoma; these are done by your medical practitioner and then would be referred to specialists. If affected by HIV, he himself will investigate. Few tests conducted to diagnose Kaposi’s sarcoma include:

a. Biopsy

b. Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

c. Chest X-ray

d. Gastrointestinal endoscopy

e. Bronchoscopy

Kaposi’s sarcoma - Treatment

Karposi's sarcoma treatmentImage via cancernetwork

The treatment to Kaposi’s sarcoma depends on the following factors:

a. Type of KS

b. Number of lesions

c. Areas where lesions are present

d. General health

e. Working of the immune system

In general, the treatment may involve surgery, crytotherapy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), and biologic therapy.

Keep these symptoms in mind and consult your medical practitioner immediately if you find any of these symptoms.

References:

Kaposi's sarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma - cancer information

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Roberta Baxter
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Anuradha Ramkumar
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Anuradha Ramkumar

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