Print-Friendly
Bookmarks

Kaposi sarcoma

Kaposi's sarcoma; HIV - Kaposi; AIDS - Kaposi

Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is a cancerous tumor of the connective tissue.

Causes

KS is the result of infection with a herpesvirus known as Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), or human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8). It is in the same family as the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis.

KSHV is transmitted mainly through saliva. It can also be spread through sexual contact, blood transfusion, or transplants. After it enters the body, the virus can infect different kinds of cells, especially cells that line blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. Like all herpesviruses, KSHV remains in your body for the rest of your life. If your immune system becomes weakened in the future, this virus may have the chance to reactivate, causing symptoms.

There are four types of KS based on the groups of people who are infected:

  • Classic KS: Mainly affects older men of Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean descent. The disease usually develops slowly.
  • Epidemic (AIDS-related) KS: Occurs most often in people who have HIV infection and have developed AIDS.
  • Endemic (African) KS: Mainly affects people of all ages in Africa.
  • Immunosuppression-associated, or transplantation-associated, KS: Occurs in people who have had an organ transplant and are medicines that suppress their immune system.

Symptoms

The tumors (lesions) most often appear as bluish-red or purple bumps on the skin. They are reddish-purple because they are rich in blood vessels.

The lesions may first appear on any part of the body. They also can appear inside the body. Lesions inside the body may bleed. Lesions in the lungs can cause bloody sputum or shortness of breath.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam, focusing on the lesions.

The following tests may be performed to diagnose KS:

Treatment

How KS is treated depends on:

Treatments include:

  • Antiviral therapy against HIV, since there is no specific therapy for HHV-8
  • Combination chemotherapy
  • Freezing the lesions
  • Radiation therapy

Lesions may return after treatment.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Treating KS does not improve the chances of survival from HIV/AIDS itself. The outlook depends on the person's immune status and how much of the HIV virus is in their blood (viral load). If the HIV is controlled with medicine the lesions will often shrink away on their own.

Possible Complications

Complications can include:

  • Cough (possibly bloody) and shortness of breath if the disease is in the lungs
  • Leg swelling that may be painful or cause infections if the disease is in the lymph nodes of the legs

The tumors can return even after treatment. KS can be deadly for a person with AIDS.

An aggressive form of endemic KS can spread quickly to the bones. Another form found in African children does not affect the skin. Instead, it spreads through the lymph nodes and vital organs, and can quickly become deadly.

Prevention

Safer sexual practices can prevent HIV infection. This prevents HIV/AIDS and its complications, including KS.

KS almost never occurs in people with HIV/AIDS whose disease is well controlled.

References

Habif TP. Vascular tumors and malformations. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 23.

Kaye KM. Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (human herpesvirus 8). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 143.

National Cancer Institute website. Kaposi sarcoma treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/soft-tissue-sarcoma/hp/kaposi-treatment-pdq. Updated July 27, 2018. Accessed December 18, 2018.

BACK TO TOP

    • Kaposi sarcoma - lesion on the foot

      Kaposi sarcoma - lesion on the foot

      illustration

    • Kaposi sarcoma on the back

      Kaposi sarcoma on the back

      illustration

    • Kaposi sarcoma - close-up

      Kaposi sarcoma - close-up

      illustration

    • Kaposi sarcoma on the thigh

      Kaposi sarcoma on the thigh

      illustration

    • Kaposi sarcoma - perianal

      Kaposi sarcoma - perianal

      illustration

    • Kaposi sarcoma on foot

      Kaposi sarcoma on foot

      illustration

      • Kaposi sarcoma - lesion on the foot

        Kaposi sarcoma - lesion on the foot

        illustration

      • Kaposi sarcoma on the back

        Kaposi sarcoma on the back

        illustration

      • Kaposi sarcoma - close-up

        Kaposi sarcoma - close-up

        illustration

      • Kaposi sarcoma on the thigh

        Kaposi sarcoma on the thigh

        illustration

      • Kaposi sarcoma - perianal

        Kaposi sarcoma - perianal

        illustration

      • Kaposi sarcoma on foot

        Kaposi sarcoma on foot

        illustration

       

      Review Date: 12/1/2018

      Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
      adam.com

       
       
       

       

       

      A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.