Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on May 5, 2021.
A hemangioma (he-man-jee-O-muh) is a bright red birthmark that shows up at birth or in the first or second week of life. It looks like a rubbery bump and is made up of extra blood vessels in the skin.
A hemangioma can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly appears on the face, scalp, chest or back. Treatment for a baby's hemangioma (infantile hemangioma) usually isn't needed as it fades over time. A child who has this condition during infancy usually has little visible trace of the growth by age 10. You may want to consider treatment if a hemangioma interferes with seeing, breathing or other functions.
An infantile hemangioma is a birthmark that consists of an abnormally dense group of blood vessels. The hemangioma appears on the surface of the skin as a spongy mass.
A hemangioma may be present at birth, but more often appears during the first several months of life. It starts 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. 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 into a spongy, rubbery-looking bump that sticks out from the skin. The hemangioma then enters a rest phase and, eventually, it begins to slowly disappear.
Many hemangiomas disappear by age 5, and most are gone by age 10. The skin may be slightly discolored or raised after the hemangioma goes away.
When to see a doctor
Your child's doctor will monitor the hemangioma during routine checkups. Contact your child's doctor if the hemangioma bleeds, forms a sore or looks infected.
Seek medical care if the condition interferes with your child's vision, breathing, hearing or elimination.
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 and born prematurely.
Occasionally, a hemangioma can break down and develop a sore. This can lead to pain, bleeding, scarring or infection. Depending on where the hemangioma is situated, it may interfere with your child's vision, breathing, hearing or elimination, but this is rare.
A doctor can usually diagnose a hemangioma just by looking at it. Tests usually aren't needed.
Treating hemangiomas usually isn't necessary because they go away on their own with time. But if a hemangioma affects vision or causes other problems, treatments include medications or laser surgery:
- Beta blocker drugs. In small, superficial hemangiomas, a gel containing the drug timolol may be applied to the affected skin. A severe infantile hemangioma may disappear if treated with an oral solution of propranolol. Treatment usually needs to be continued until about 1 year of age. Side effects can include high blood sugar, low blood pressure and wheezing.
- Corticosteroid medications. For children who don't respond to beta blocker treatments or can't use them, corticosteroids may be an option. They can be injected into the nodule 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, weigh the pros and cons with your child's doctor. Consider that most infantile hemangiomas disappear on their own during childhood and that treatments have potential side effects.