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What is Syringoma

Syringomas are small benign tumors. They are usually found on your upper and lower eyelids. Though rare, they may also occur on your chest, abdomen, or genitals. These harmless growths result when the cells from your sweat glands are overactive. They usually begin to develop in young adults but can they also occur at any age.

Syringoma are harmless sweat duct benign growths, typically found clustered on the eyelids. However they may also be found in the armpits, belly button, and other parts of the body. When these benign lesions are not located on the periorbital region they are referred to as Eruptive Syringomas.  The name syringoma is derived from the Greek word syrinx, which means pipe or tube. The name suggests the exact problem of the condition which is a benign overgrowth of the sweat tubes cells on the epidermal part of the skin.

It is important to emphasize that Syringoma are benign lesions and do not pose any threat to health. Therefore they can be left untreated and they are only removed for cosmetic reasons. Normally people seek to have only periorbital Syringoma removed because they are the most visible and the most difficult to conceal with makeup.

Skin Cross Section Labeled

Skin Cross Section Labeled

The left hand side picture is used to illustrate in which layer of the skin Syringoma are developed. As mentioned above, Syringoma are found on the epidermis and are small benign growths of the final part of the sweat duct tubes on the epidermis.

Syringoma come in many different shapes and colors, they can be oval, dome-shaped or round. Their size can vary from syringoma to syringoma. Periorbital Syringoma can be both clustered unevenly in one region only or quite well distributed throughout the area of the skin around the eyes or the eyelids.

The word Syringoma is normally associated with the small plaques around the eyes. However, it has to be remembered that they often appear on any other part of the body (Eruptive Syringoma). The reason for the association of Syringoma to a periorbital skin condition (which means a condition developed “around the eyes”) is due to the fact that people seek to have them removed especially when they develop around the eyes.

Periorbital Syringoma are skin-colored or yellowish firm rounded bumps, 1-3 mm in diameter, and they are often confused with xanthelasma, because of their color as well as their presence around the eyes.

Syringoma can appear at any age, however they usually occur after puberty. Syringoma can develop in people of any race and gender,  females seem to be more affected than males. This may not be due to the condition actually affecting more women than men, rather because women are generally more self-conscious than men and seek help more often.

Who’s at risk of Developing Syringoma?

As we just said, syringoma can develop at any age, although they usually occur after puberty. Anyone can develop Syringoma  any race and  either gender, although females are more commonly affected.

Syringoma sometimes run in families. Up to 18% of people with Down syndrome have syringoma. People with diabetes are more likely to have a type known as clear cell syringoma.

A less common condition, eruptive syringoma, is more commonly seen in people with darker skin.

Most Common Location of Syringoma

  • Upper Eyelids
  • Lower eyelids
  • Armpits
  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Forehead
  • Genitalia (penis or vulva)

Click to Read more about Signs and symptoms of syringomas

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In the bottom picture, you can see the classic periorbital Syringoma. In this case, these lesions are easily recognized as Syringoma given their skin like color and their clustered formation.

Syringoma are believed to be of familial origin. Around 18% of people with Down syndrome have syringoma. As mentioned earlier people with diabetes are more likely to have a syringoma type known as clear cell syringoma.

Syringomas around the eyes or Periorbital Syringomas

As we have previously mentioned not all syringoma grow on the eyelid area. There is another type of Syringoma called Eruptive Syringoma.

Eruptive syringomas appear abruptly in adult life, as a crop of multiple lesions typically on the chest or lower abdomen. Most people with eruptive syringoma are Asian or dark skinned.

Periorbital Syringoma

How is syringoma diagnosed?

Most cases are diagnosed by looking at the appearance of the lesion. A biopsy may be needed to exclude other similar kinds of tumors such as trichoepitheliomas, trichodiscomas, fibrofolliculoma and as well as basal cell cancers. Biopsies of syringoma show comma-shaped sweat ducts in the dermal (deep) layers of the skin.

How is syringoma treated?

Syringoma are benign so they do not require treatment. However, they may be treated if they are disfiguring.

The aim of treatment is to reduce the visibility of the tumor rather than eliminate it completely. This reduces the risk of scarring. In order to achieve this, the upper portion of the syringoma is treated reducing its size.  If complete ablation or tissue removal is carried out too deeply, scarring may result.  More recently fractional ablative lasers have been introduced allowing treatment of the deeper parts of this lesion with much-reduced risk of scarring.

People with darker skin types are at greater risk of scarring. It is wise to treat a small test area first. If this is successful, without complications or unacceptable scarring, then a larger area can be treated.

Remember that Syringoma can recur after treatment.

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