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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 40-43

Glomus tumor presenting as atypical tender papule on the lower limb

Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission01-Oct-2019
Date of Decision26-Nov-2019
Date of Acceptance06-Mar-2020
Date of Web Publication22-Aug-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Banupriya Mani
3/166, Sri Bhavani Illam, Anna Street, Madipakkam, Chennai - 600 091, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdds.jdds_58_19

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Glomus tumor is a benign vascular tumor derived from modified smooth muscle cells of the glomus body. Although they can develop in any part of the body, they commonly do so in the upper extremities, most frequently in the subungual region of fingers. They can be either solitary or multiple. Extradigital glomus tumors are often misdiagnosed owing to their nonspecific clinical presentations and unusual locations. We report two cases of extradigital glomus tumor occurring at unusual sites such as knee and thigh.

Keywords: Glomus tumor, knee, tender papule, thigh

How to cite this article:
Mani B, Priyadarshini A, Rajesh G, Sankarasubramanian A. Glomus tumor presenting as atypical tender papule on the lower limb. J Dermatol Dermatol Surg 2022;26, Suppl S1:40-3

How to cite this URL:
Mani B, Priyadarshini A, Rajesh G, Sankarasubramanian A. Glomus tumor presenting as atypical tender papule on the lower limb. J Dermatol Dermatol Surg [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 8];26, Suppl S1:40-3. Available from: https://www.jddsjournal.org/text.asp?2022/26/3/40/354316

  Introduction Top

Glomus tumors are rare, benign, vascular neoplasms constituting only 1.6% of all soft-tissue tumors.[1] They arise from the glomus body, a contractile neuromyoarterial structure found in the reticular dermis.[2] Their function is to adjust the blood pressure and temperature by directing blood flow within the subcutis.[3] They present most commonly in the subungual region of the distal phalanx, since they contain large number of the normal glomus body.[4] However, they are also reported in extradigital locations where clinical diagnosis can be made based on the classic triad of paroxysmal pain, tenderness, and cold hypersensitivity.[5] They are classified into solid glomus tumor, glomangioma, and glomangiomyoma based on the presence of variable quantities of glomus cells, blood vessels, and smooth muscle.[6]

  Case Reports Top

A 31-year-old male came to the dermatology outpatient department with complaints of a single, painful, nonprogressive lesion below the left knee for a duration of 1 year. He had a history of exacerbation of pain on touch and exposure to cold. On examination, an erythematous, tender papule of size 0.25 cm × 0.25 cm was present inferior to the left knee. Surrounding skin was normal without any induration or extension [Figure 1]a and [Figure 1]b. A 42-year-old male presented with similar history on the right thigh for 6 months. On examination, a bluish, tender, compressible papule of size 0.5 cm × 0.5 cm was present on the anterolateral aspect of the right thigh [Figure 2]a and [Figure 2]b.
Figure 1: (a) An erythematous papule below the medial aspect of the left knee, (b) magnified view of the papule below the left knee

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Figure 2: (a) A bluish compressible papule on the anterolateral aspect of the right thigh, (b) magnified view of the papule on the right thigh

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In both cases, differential diagnosis of eccrine spiradenoma, glomus tumor, blue rubber bleb nevi, and leiomyoma were considered. Excisional biopsy showed a well-circumscribed tumor in the dermis, composed of sheets and nests of monomorphic-rounded cells with eosinophilic cytoplasm and ovoid plump nuclei, surrounding capillaries [Figure 3]a and [Figure 3]b.
Figure 3: (a) Well-circumscribed tumor in the dermis with sheets and nests of monomorphic-rounded cells, surrounding capillaries H and E, ×10, (b) Dilated vascular spaces, surrounded by glomus cells (round cells with eosinophilic cytoplasm and ovoid plump nuclei) H and E, ×40

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In both cases, immunohistochemistry showed positive expression for smooth muscle actin (SMA), confirming the diagnosis of glomus tumor [Figure 4]a. CD34 was, however, negative [Figure 4]b.
Figure 4: (a) Positive expression for smooth muscle actin immunohistochemistry. (b) CD 34 negative. IHC: immunohistochemistry

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  Discussion Top

Glomus tumors, also known as Barré–Masson syndrome, were first described in 1924 by Masson.[2] They are benign hamartomas arising from the normal glomus apparatus in the subcutaneous tissue.

Glomus body is an arteriovenous anastomosis, and it functions as a receptor to regulate cutaneous blood pressure and temperature by modifying peripheral blood flow with their contractile ability.[1] Pain associated with glomus tumor is paroxysmal and disproportionate to size of the lesion, aggravated by tactile stimulus and exposure to cold.[4] Several hypotheses may explain the pathogenesis of pain. Cold temperature may trigger vasodilation of the glomus body resulting in pain, which is then exacerbated by pressure.[7] Other mechanisms include the release of substance P and contraction of myofilaments in glomus cells, resulting in an increase in intracapsular pressure which is then transmitted by the unmyelinated nerve fibers.[1] They also have abundant mast cells which release heparin, 5-hydroxytryptamin, and histamine causing receptors to react to pressure or cold stimulation.[2]

It is generally common in young adults between 20 and 40 years of age. The classical site of the subungual region is more common in females.[8] Extradigital sites are more common in males,[1] as seen in our cases. They may be solitary or multiple, appearing as pinkish, red or bluish, raised and painful nodule.[2] In both our cases, the lesions presented as papules as opposed to the usual nodules seen in this condition. The most common extradigital site is along the upper extremity, mostly the forearm, whereas the shoulder and upper back are least commonly involved.[9] Other extradigital cutaneous sites reported in the literature are lower limb [Table 1], chest, palm, and inguinal region.
Table 1: Summary of extradigital glomus tumors presenting as cutaneous lesions on the lower limb published in literature

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Diagnosis is by excisional biopsy, which also happens to be the treatment of choice.[4] Histopathological analysis reveals a well-circumscribed proliferation of solid sheets and clusters of glomus cells surrounding vessels, as seen in our cases. The glomus cells are uniformly rounded or polygonal in shape and have centrally placed rounded nuclei and a pale eosinophilic cytoplasm.[8] Tumor cells are universally positive for SMA. However, positivity for CD34 is variable, which was negative in both our cases.[6]

Complete excision with meticulous care is curative for solitary lesions as the recurrence rate for incompletely excised tumors has been found to be between 12% and 33%.[7] Other modalities of treatment include electrodessication, sclerotherapy, CO2, and pulsed dye laser.[6]

In conclusion, glomus tumors are rare, extradigital glomus tumors even more so! We report the above cases of glomus tumor arising in the unusual sites of the knee and thigh, presenting as papules with the classical triad. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of this condition are of utmost importance to avoid chronic pain and restriction of the use of the affected limb. Complete surgical excision is mandatory to avoid recurrence and to be completely free from pain caused by residual tissue. This highlights that glomus tumors should be added to the list of the differential diagnosis for all painful dermal lesions with the classical triad of pain, cold sensitivity, and point tenderness.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Villescas VV, Wasserman PL, Cunningham JC, Siddiqi AM. Brace yourself: An unusual case of knee pain, an extradigital glomangioma of the knee. Radiol Case Rep 2017;12:357-60.  Back to cited text no. 1
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Chou T, Pan SC, Shieh SJ, Lee JW, Chiu HY, Ho CL. Glomus tumor: Twenty-year experience and literature review. Ann Plast Surg 2016;76 (Suppl 1):S35-40.  Back to cited text no. 3
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Sanchez IM, Ilkovitch D. A case of a glomus tumor presenting as an atypical hyperkeratotic papule of the hypothenar palm. JAAD Case Rep 2018;4:38-40.  Back to cited text no. 7
North PE, Kincannon J. Vascular neoplasms and neoplastic- like proliferations. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, editors. Dermatology. 4th ed. Spain: Elsevier Limited; 2018. p. 1790-2.  Back to cited text no. 8
Venugopal PR. Extradigital glomus tumor-a rare cause for undiagnosed chronic pain in unusal sites. Indian J Surg 2015;77:910-2.  Back to cited text no. 9
Mravic M, LaChaud G, Nguyen A, Scott MA, Dry SM, James AW. Clinical and histopathological diagnosis of glomus tumor: An institutional experience of 138 cases. Int J Surg Pathol 2015;23:181-8.  Back to cited text no. 10
Dervan PA, Tobbia IN, Casey M, O'Loughlin J, O'Brien M. Glomus tumours: An immunohistochemical profile of 11 cases. Histopathology 1989;14:483-91.  Back to cited text no. 11
Schiefer TK, Parker WL, Anakwenze OA, Amadio PC, Inwards CY, Spinner RJ. Extradigital glomus tumors: A 20-year experience. Mayo Clin Proc 2006;81:1337-44.  Back to cited text no. 12
Lee DW, Yang JH, Chang S, Won CH, Lee MW, Choi JH, et al. Clinical and pathological characteristics of extradigital and digital glomus tumours: A retrospective comparative study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2011;25:1392-7.  Back to cited text no. 13
Heys SD, Brittenden J, Atkinson P, Eremin O. Glomus tumour: An analysis of 43 patients and review of the literature. Br J Surg 1992;79:345-7.  Back to cited text no. 14
Catalano O, Alfageme Roldän F, Solivetti FM, Scotto di Santolo M, Bouer M, Wortsman X. Color Doppler sonography of extradigital glomus tumors. J Ultrasound Med 2017;36:231-8.  Back to cited text no. 15
Strahan J, Bailie HW. Glomus tumour. A review of 15 clinical cases. Br J Surg 1972;59:91-3.  Back to cited text no. 16
Beksaç K, Dogan L, Bozdogan N, Dilek G, Akgul GG, Ozaslan C. Extradigital glomus tumor of thigh. Case Rep Surg 2015;2015:638283.  Back to cited text no. 17
Haiyat S, Akhtar K, Alam F, Siddiqui A. Extra digital glomus tumour of ankle in a toddler: A rare case report with unusual presentation. J Med Surg Pathol 2018;3:2.  Back to cited text no. 18
Sbai MA, Benzarti S, Gharbi W, Maalla R. A rare case of glomus tumor of the thigh with literature review. J Orthop Case Rep 2018;8:22-4.  Back to cited text no. 19
Bhat MR, George AA, Pinto AC, Sukumar D, Lyngdoh RH. Violaceous painful nodule of the leg in an Indian male patient. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2012;78:410.  Back to cited text no. 20
  [Full text]  
Sbai MA, Benzarti S, Gharbi W, Khoffi W, Maalla R. Glomus tumor of the leg: A case report. Pan Afr Med J 2018;31:186.  Back to cited text no. 21
Waseem M, Jari S, Paton RW. Glomus tumour, a rare cause of knee pain: A case report. Knee 2002;9:161-3.  Back to cited text no. 22
Gupta A, Dhar R, Jain A, Hoogar M. Glomus tumor: Comparative analysis of four Cases. J Med Sci Clin Res 2017;5:19027-31.  Back to cited text no. 23


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]

  [Table 1]


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