What is a glomus tumour?
A glomus tumour is a benign tumour which forms around the tiny blood vessels, usually seen as a purple patch under the nail. These blood vessels have receptors which register temperature changes, and feed back via nerves to regulate the flow of blood through the vessels. Because of this, glomus tumours are very sensitive to changes in temperature, particularly the cold.
What symptoms can they cause?
They look innocuous, but a glomus tumour can give pain and tenderness in the fingertip that is particularly severe in cold weather or when associated with sudden temperature change. Knocks to the finger can feel excruciating, and people try to avoid using the fingertip because of the pain.
What is the natural history of a glomus tumour?
These tiny tumours tend to slowly increase in size over the course of years. They usually become so uncomfortable that the majority of people with a glomus tumour will opt to have the tumour removed surgically.
What are the results of surgery?
In order to remove these tumours, the surgeon will need to first remove the nail, and then lift a flap up from the tissue under the nail in order to get to the tumour. They usually come out relatively easily, and the nail-bed then has to be repaired. The nail takes around 3 months to fully re-grow, and there is often a permanent ridge in the nail because of the surgery that has been done.
Glomus tumours can also recur following excision, and the fingertip often remains sensitive in the long-term following excision.
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