A hemangioma is a type of birthmark with a bright red coloration. It doesn't appear as part of the skin; instead, it manifests as a raised bump. Many infants with hemangiomas are born with them, but others develop them shortly after birth (usually in the first couple weeks of life). Here are a few important facts you should know about hemangiomas.
1. Certain Individuals Are More Likely to Have a Hemangioma
Though one out of every 20 infants develops or is born with a hemangioma, there are certain groups and populations that are more likely to have this birthmark. Hemangiomas are more frequent in the following groups:
- Caucasian children
- Premature babies
- Infants from a multiples birth (like twins, triplets, or quadruplets)
2. A Hemangioma Is a Type of Tumor
A hemangioma is a type of vascular tumor. This means that it's comprised of extra blood vessels that clump together to form the trademark red lump. Fortunately, while hemangiomas can cause some discomfort, they're benign growths that pose no danger to the child's overall health.
The exact causes of a hemangioma aren't known, and they don't appear to be caused by environmental exposures during the mother's pregnancy. Even though hemangiomas are often observed in multiple members of the same family, researchers haven't been able to identify a genetic link.
3. Facial Hemangiomas Can Occur with Internal Hemangiomas
It's possible for a person with a facial hemangioma to also have internal hemangiomas on their organs. Internal hemangiomas can occur on the brain, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. Most internal hemangiomas don't cause any medical issues.
Rarely, the hemangioma might press against the internal organs and cause some type of complication. In these cases, a doctor will recommend removing the tumor. This can be done via surgery or by the use of prescription beta-blockers. The beta-blockers will encourage the hemangioma to shrink.
Unlike external hemangiomas, internal hemangiomas typically don't continue to grow. The size they are at birth is generally the largest they will be.
4. Most External Hemangiomas Don't Require Treatment
The majority of people with external hemangiomas don't have to treat the tumor or remove it. After the initial appearance of the hemangioma, it may continue to enlarge in size. This is the tumor's growth period.
Eventually, the hemangioma will stop expanding and will start contracting. Over time, the hemangioma will continue to shrink until it's gone completely or barely noticeable.
Hemangioma growth usually stops by the infant's first year of life. It can take years for the hemangioma to shrink to the point that it's not readily visible.
5. Treatments Are Available to Remove the Hemangioma or Hasten the Shrinking Process
Occasionally, a parent may pursue treatment for a child with a hemangioma. Depending on the tumor's location, it might impact the child's ability to see, hear, or speak. This can affect the child's development and quality of life.
Alternatively, the hemangioma might be prone to developing sores and getting infected. Large hemangiomas may bring the child unwanted attention that impacts their self-esteem.
Laser removal is one of the top procedures for removing a hemangioma. The recovery period after a laser surgery is relatively short, and there are minimal side effects associated with the procedure. If you opt to have your child's hemangioma excised via laser removal, know that this procedure works best for small, thin growths.
Another removal alternative is the use of prescription medications. Your doctor will prescription beta-blocker drugs and corticosteroids for your child. These two medications will wok together to slow the tumor's growth and decrease its size.
For the best results, your doctor will prescribe these medications during the growth phase of the hemangioma. Once the tumor is done growing, these medications aren't as effective.
To learn more, contact a doctor that treats hemangiomas.