What is a Hemangioma? Causes, Types & Treatment

What is a Hemangioma? Causes, Types & Treatment

Hemangioma is pretty common — but what exactly are these birthmarks? We look at the different types, potential causes, and treatments available.
A hemangioma is a common kind of birthmark.

They can be small or large, and you’ll often see a strawberry or cherry-red area of raised skin.

They’re usually nothing to worry about, but they can be a concern for new mamas.

To help put your mind at ease, here’s everything you need to know about hemangiomas and how they’re treated.

In this article: 📝

  • What is a Hemangioma?
  • What are the two types of hemangioma?
  • What causes Hemangioma?
  • Is hemangioma genetic?
  • Are hemangiomas serious?
  • How do you get rid of hemangiomas?
  • Should hemangiomas be removed?
  • When should I be worried about a hemangioma?

What is a Hemangioma?

Hemangiomas happen when extra blood vessels form a lump under the skin.

They are sometimes called strawberry hemangioma or cherry hemangioma because of the bright reddy-pink color.

You’ll usually see hemangiomas on the head or the neck.

They often appear on the lips, cheeks, and eyelids.

But hemangiomas can pop up absolutely anywhere on the body, and there might be more than one.

Hemangiomas sometimes occur internally, too, such as on the liver, heart, or brain.

If a doctor suspects this, they’ll probably give your little one an ultrasound.

What are the two types of hemangioma?

There are two main hemangioma types.

These are superficial and deep.

Here’s a bit more info on each:

Superficial hemangioma

These are raised, red areas on the surface of the skin.

They might feel warm because the blood vessels are close to the surface.

Initially, they might appear as a pale area of skin and only become red later.

Deep hemangiomas

This type might appear blue in color because the blood vessels are deeper beneath the skin.

They might also appear as a lump and are not always immediately noticeable.

Some hemangiomas might combine the two types.

For instance, there might be a red, raised area on the skin as well as a blue-toned swelling coming from deeper beneath the skin.

Whatever the type of hemangioma, they develop a few days or weeks after a baby is born.

After this, they might grow rapidly for a few months.

Hemangiomas normally stop growing once your baby reaches somewhere between six and ten months old.

After this, there’s usually a “rest period,” and the hemangioma starts to shrink.

What causes Hemangioma?

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes haemangiomas.

Some think they come from placental tissue early in pregnancy.

(That’s the tissue that helps support your growing, developing baby when they’re in the womb.)

But evidence is lacking.

They also might be caused by something going wrong in the development of the blood circulatory system.

Some hemangiomas appear after an injury, but again, the exact link isn’t clear.

Is hemangioma genetic?

While the exact causes of haemangiomas aren’t clear, some are linked to genetic conditions.

This is the case with cavernous hemangiomas, that mostly occur in the brain.

They’re linked to something called Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome, associated with the growth of tumors in various organs.

It’s important to know that a hemangioma baby birthmark isn’t the result of anything you’ve done.

(And if you need support right now, your Peanut community is here for you.)

Are hemangiomas serious?

Most hemangiomas won’t lead to any problems.

You’ll just need to look after them carefully.

In hemangiomas that do lead to complications, these aren’t always severe.

For instance, a hemangioma might bleed if scratched.

So keep your little one’s nails short and watch out for any nicks.

In more good news, most hemangiomas disappear completely by 5 to 7 years old.

If it’s large, this might take a bit longer — disappearing at around 8 or 10 years.

In some cases, small red veins might stay on the skin’s surface, treatable with procedures like laser removal.

How do you get rid of hemangiomas?

Getting rid of hemangiomas can be tricky.

So doctors often prefer to observe and monitor rather than go straight for removal.

Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Beta-blocker medications used to slow the hemangioma’s growth.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication which are steroids used to slow growth — especially if it’s near the eyes, nose, or lips.
  • Compression which refers to applying pressure to decrease swelling.
  • Embolization which is a procedure that closes off the blood supply.
  • Laser treatment which is sometimes used to prepare for surgery, reduce pain or remove hemangiomas.

If the hemangioma starts to destroy the healthy tissues around it or causes painful symptoms, your doctor might recommend surgical treatment.

This is called an excision, where your child will be put under general anesthetic, and the hemangioma is cut out.

Should hemangiomas be removed?

Generally speaking, hemangiomas are left alone unless they’re causing any problems or pain.

A large hemangioma can distort the surrounding skin.

Once it’s disappeared, it can leave an area of stretched and wrinkled skin.

Equally, a hemangioma can leave distortion around the ear and nose areas.

In both these cases, a doctor might recommend removing it.

When should I be worried about a hemangioma?

Hemangiomas are pretty common, affecting 4-5% of babies.

They’re normally nothing to worry about and usually disappear before the age of 10.

If you’re worried about anything at all though, get in touch with your healthcare provider.

They’ll be able to recommend appropriate treatment — and how to look after your little one.

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