What are the signs and symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma (KS)?

Updated: Apr 11, 2019
  • Author: Jessica Katz, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: Edwin Choy, MD, PhD  more...
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Answer

Lesions in KS may involve the skin, oral mucosa, lymph nodes, and visceral organs. Most patients present with cutaneous disease (see the image below). Visceral disease may occasionally precede cutaneous manifestations.

Epidemic Kaposi sarcoma (KS). Large violaceous tru Epidemic Kaposi sarcoma (KS). Large violaceous truncal nodules with typical linear and symmetric distribution pattern.

See Clues in the Oral Cavity: Are You Missing the Diagnosis?, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify the causes of abnormalities of the oral cavity.

Cutaneous lesions in KS are characterized as follows:

  • Cutaneous lesions may occur at any location but typically are concentrated on the lower extremities and the head and neck region

  • Lesions may have macular, papular, nodular, or plaquelike appearances

  • Nearly all lesions are palpable and nonpruritic

  • Lesions may range in size from several millimeters to several centimeters in diameter

  • Lesions may assume a brown, pink, red, or violaceous color and may be difficult to distinguish in dark-skinned individuals

  • Lesions may be discrete or confluent and typically appear in a linear, symmetrical distribution, following Langer lines

  • Mucous membrane involvement is common (palate, gingiva, conjunctiva)

Gastrointestinal lesions can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. Lesions are often asymptomatic and clinically indolent, but signs and symptoms can include the following:

  • Odynophagia, dysphagia
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
  • Hematemesis, hematochezia, melena
  • Bowel obstruction

Pulmonary lesions may be an asymptomatic radiographic finding, but signs and symptoms can include the following:

  • Cough
  • Dyspnea
  • Hemoptysis
  • Chest pain

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