A hemangioma (he-man-jee-O-muh), also known as an infantile hemangioma or hemangioma of infancy, is a bright red birthmark. It looks like a rubbery bump or flat red patch and is made up of extra blood vessels in the skin. The mark shows up at birth or in the first month of life.
A hemangioma typically appears on the face, scalp, chest or back, though it can be anywhere on the skin. Treatment generally isn't needed for a baby's hemangioma, as the mark fades over time. Typically, there is little trace of it by age 10. You may want to think about treatment for the child if a hemangioma leads to problems with vision, breathing or other bodily functions. You also may think about treatment if the hemangioma is in a cosmetically sensitive area.
A hemangioma may be visible at birth, but it appears more often during the first month of life. It starts as a flat red mark on the body, most often on the face, scalp, chest or back. A child generally only has one mark, but some children may have more than one mark.
During your child's first year, the red mark may grow rapidly into a spongy, rubbery-looking bump that sticks out from the skin. The hemangioma then enters a rest phase. Then it will begin to slowly go away.
Many hemangiomas go away by age 5, and most go away by age 10. The skin may be slightly discolored or raised after the hemangioma goes away.
When to see a doctor
Your child's health care provider will check the hemangioma during routine visits. Contact your child's health care provider if the hemangioma bleeds, forms a sore or looks infected.
Seek medical care if the condition causes problems with an important bodily function, such as your child's vision, breathing, hearing or ability to go to the bathroom.
A hemangioma is made up of extra blood vessels that group together into a dense clump. What causes the vessels to clump isn't known.
Hemangiomas occur more often in babies who are female, white or born prematurely. Babies with a low birth weight also are more likely to have a hemangioma.
At times, a hemangioma can break down and develop a sore. This can lead to pain, bleeding, scarring or infection. Depending on the hemangioma's location, it may cause problems with your child's vision, breathing, hearing or ability to go to the bathroom. But this is rare.
In most cases, a health care provider can diagnose a hemangioma by looking at it. Tests typically aren't needed.
Treating hemangiomas generally isn't necessary because they go away on their own with time. Some hemangiomas can affect important structures or are of cosmetic concern due to size or location. If a hemangioma causes problems, treatments include:
- Beta blocker medicines. In small hemangiomas, you may need to apply a gel containing the medicine timolol to the affected skin. Some hemangiomas may go away if treated with propranolol, which is a liquid medicine taken by mouth. Treatment typically needs to continue until about 1 to 2 years of age. Side effects can include high blood sugar, low blood pressure and wheezing.
- Corticosteroid medicines. If beta blocker treatments don't work for a child, corticosteroids may be an option. They can be given as a shot or applied to the skin. Side effects can include poor growth and thinning of the skin.
- Laser surgery. Sometimes laser surgery can remove a small, thin hemangioma or treat sores on a hemangioma.
If you're considering treatment for your child's hemangioma, talk with your child's health care provider. Remember that most infantile hemangiomas go away on their own and treatments could have side effects.