Kaposi Sarcoma: Symptoms

March 21, 2017

Kaposi Sarcoma: Symptoms

Kaposi sarcoma (KS) might not cause symptoms in its early stages. When KS does cause symptoms, they can include:

Lesions on the skin, in the mouth, or in the genital area

KS lesions normally start out as purple, red, or brown spots. The lesions are usually not painful. They might be flat or raised. Sometimes they grow as lumps just below the skin and do not have an unusual color. KS lesions most often start on the feet or legs, on the face, inside the mouth, or on the genitals.

Lesions inside the mouth usually appear on the roof of the mouth or on the gums. Chewing food might cause the lesions to bleed or might even be painful and lead to trouble eating.

Lesions in other parts of the body

KS lesions can also appear inside the body, such as in the digestive tract or in the lungs. If these lesions grow large enough, they might cause symptoms.

  • Digestive system problems. KS lesions can develop in the esophagus, stomach, intestines, or other part of the digestive tract. Sometimes, these lesions can cause nausea, abdominal (belly) pain, and bleeding, which might show up as dark or black stools. Lesions in this part of the body may also interfere with food digestion, leading to diarrhea and weight loss. Rarely, lesions can cause blockages in the digestive tract, making it hard to have a bowel movement. 

  • Coughing, wheezing, or breathing problems. Lesions may also grow in your lungs. Lung lesions can cause chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. You may even cough up blood. 


In some people with KS, the lymph nodes or lymph vessels become blocked, which can lead to severe swelling. This swelling is called lymphedema. It may happen even when no lesions are on the skin. Swelling might happen in different parts of the body:

  • In the legs and feet (which might make walking painful)

  • In or around the genitals

  • Around the eyes

When to see your healthcare provider

Many of these symptoms can be caused by other health problems. But it is important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell if you have KS.


March 21, 2017


AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. UpToDate.

Reviewed By:  

Alteri, Rick, MD,Levin, Mark, MD