What Are Hemangiomas of the Skin?
A hemangiomas of the skin is an abnormal buildup of blood vessels on or under the surface of the skin. A hemangiomas of the skin may look like a red wine- or strawberry-colored birthmark and may protrude from the skin. Hemangiomas of the skin appear most frequently on the face and neck and behind the ears.
Growths in the outermost layers of skin are called capillary hemangiomas, while those deeper in the skin are called cavernous hemangiomas. Capillary hemangiomas are often left untreated, but cavernous growths should be treated if they interfere with eyesight or breathing or are very unsightly.
Hemangiomas of the skin generally develop during infancy. They can affect both boys and girls.
A hemangiomas can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly appears on the face, scalp, chest or back. Treatment of a hemangiomas usually isn’t needed, unless the nodule interferes with vision or breathing.
Hemangiomas look painful, but rarely cause any discomfort. After a brief period of rapid growth, they often shrink and go away on their own without treatment. Hemangiomas of the skin are non-cancerous and complications are very rare.
What Causes Birthmarks?
The cause of most birthmarks is unknown. Most of them are not inherited. Many folk tales and myths exist about the causes of birthmarks, but none of these stories have been proven to explain the true causes of birthmarks.
Symptoms of Hemangiomas
A hemangiomas may be present at birth, but more often appears during the first several months of life. It starts out as a flat red mark anywhere on the body, most often on the face, scalp, chest or back. Usually a child has only one mark, but some children may have more than one, particularly if they’re part of a multiple birth.
During your child’s first year, the red mark grows rapidly and becomes a spongy mass that protrudes from the skin. The hemangiomas then enters a rest phase and, eventually, it begins to slowly disappear.
Half of all hemangiomas resolve by age 5, and nearly all hemangiomas are resolved by age 10. Although the color of the birthmark also fades, faint but permanent discoloration of the skin or residual extra skin may remain.
What Causes Hemangiomas of the Skin?
Experts do not know why these benign tumors form. However, according to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, they are more common in:
♦ low birth weight infants
♦ premature infants
♦ infants of Caucasian background
In some cases, hemangiomas appear to run in families. However, they can also appear spontaneously so there may or may not be a genetic component to the condition. Because their exact cause remains unknown, there is no way to prevent hemangiomas of the skin.
Will my baby’s hemangioma grow?
Infantile hemangiomas grow rapidly for the first few weeks or months. They then enter a rest phase by about 8 months of age. And they usually begin to shrink (involution phase) around 1 year of age. As the lesion shrinks, the color may change from red to purple and gray. It may take several years for the hemangiomas to go away completely. Larger lesions take a longer time to go away and have a greater chance of scarring.
Treatment for Hemangiomas
Many capillary birthmarks such as salmon patches and strawberry hemangiomas are temporary and require no treatment. For permanent lesions, concealing cosmetics may be helpful. Oral corticosteroids can reduce the size of a hemangiomas that is growing rapidly and obstructing vision or vital structures.
A new and very promising treatment for serious hemangiomas is propranalol, a drug usually used for the treatment of high blood pressure.
Port wine stains on the face can be treated at a young age with a pulsed dye laser for best results.
Other treatments for red birthmarks may include:
♦ Cryotherapy (freezing)
♦ Laser surgery
♦ Surgical removal
In some cases, birthmarks are not treated until a child reaches school age. However, hemangiomas are treated earlier if they compromise vital functions like vision or breathing or make the child self-conscious.