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What is a hemangioma?

Hemangiomas are growths made out of extra blood vessels. They are noncancerous and usually found just on the skin but can occur in internal organs like the liver or digestive tract.

Hemangiomas on the surface of the skin are common. They are bright red or purple, soft, raised, squishy birthmarks with sharp borders. They are most often on the head, chest, or upper back.

Some hemangiomas are deeper in the skin. They often look bluish, and the borders are less sharp. Most of these hemangiomas are on the head or neck.

Most hemangiomas appear at birth or within a week or two after birth. Usually a child has just 1 hemangioma.

What is the cause?

No one knows the exact cause. Hemangiomas tend to run in families and happen more often in lighter skinned babies than darker skinned babies. Hemangiomas are about 3 times more common in girls than boys and are also more common in premature babies.

What are the symptoms?

The hemangioma usually looks like a small red blemish or bump that may look like a bruise or scratch but quickly starts to grow. Between 12 and 18 months of age, the hemangioma may start turning gray. This is a sign that it is getting smaller.

How is it treated?

Most hemangiomas get smaller and eventually go away without treatment. Those that don’t get smaller by age 5 may take up to 10 years to go away. Sometimes they can leave scars. Treatment options include beta blocker medicine, steroid medicine, surgery, or laser treatment.

When a hemangioma is large, blocking the eye, affecting the airway, or causing some other complication, your child’s healthcare provider may refer you to a skin doctor (dermatologist) or other specialist for treatment.

Babies who have 3 or more small hemangiomas on the skin should be checked for hemangiomas inside the body. Internal hemangiomas may lead to heart failure or other problems. Hemangiomas that affect the heart are usually treated with steroid medicine.

If a hemangioma makes feeding difficult or blocks the eyes, ear canal, or airway, your child will need treatment right away. Your child may also need treatment if he or she has bleeding, pain, or facial disfigurement. Treatment may include medicine and/or surgery.

How can I help take care of my child?

  • Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions.
  • Ask your provider what symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them.
  • Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-08-03
Last reviewed: 2012-03-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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