A hemangioma is a vascular birth mark that becomes apparent during a child’s first year but usually fades as the child ages. They are red in color due to the excess blood vessels in the skin, and are usually found on the head and chest, but can be on any part of the body.
About one third of hemangiomas are present at birth. The rest appear in the first several months of life. The hemangioma can be in the top layers of skin (capillary hemangioma), deeper in the skin (cavernous hemangioma), or a mixture of both.
Although hemangiomas are usually harmless, they can become symptomatic if they ulcerate and bleed. If they are symptomatic or if there is concern for interference in vision, breathing, hearing, or in the diaper region, there are treatment options to shrink hemangiomas.
Adults can also develop hemangiomas, known commonly as angiomas or cherry angiomas. Like the childhood hemangiomas, these are also collections of blood vessels on the surface of the skin that appear bright red to purple. However, they are much smaller, more superficial and typically occur after the age of 20. They are benign and no treatment is required. However, if cosmetically disturbing to a patient, they can be treated with simple destructive techniques.”
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of a hemangioma is uncertain, although it is believed to be hereditary. Hemangiomas occur most commonly in: females, premature babies, and caucasians.
A hemangioma is usually self-diagnosable, but early and deep lesions may not appear typical and will require a pediatrician or dermatologist to diagnose.
Signs of a hemangioma are red to reddish-purple raised plaques on the skin, most commonly on the face and neck. They may bleed easily if irritated.
Hemangiomas of the eyelid may cause problems with vision and should be treated soon after birth. Similarly, hemangiomas of the lower face and throat need to be evaluated early to ensure that they do not involve the inner airway or interfere with a child’s breathing.
All birthmarks, including hemangiomas, should be evaluated by your health care provider during a regular exam.
Call your provider if a hemangioma is bleeding or develops a sore.
A physical exam is done to diagnose a hemangioma. If it is deep inside the body a CT or MRI may be needed. Other tests to check for related problems may be done.