A hemangioma is a growth of blood vessels that appears on the skin. It’s sometimes called a strawberry hemangioma, because it is bright red. It’s known as a type of birthmark. But it often can't be seen at birth. It usually forms in the first few weeks of life. It is the most common type of non-cancer (benign) skin growth.
Girls are 3 times more likely to have them than boys. They are more common in multiple births such as twins, and low-birth weight preterm babies. In most cases, a hemangioma will keep growing for the first 3 to 5 months of life. Then it starts to shrink.
What causes a hemangioma?
The cause of a hemangioma often isn’t known. It may be passed on (inherited) in some families through a gene. The way it is passed on is called autosomal dominant inheritance. This means that only one parent needs to have the gene to pass it on. If the parent has the gene, each child has a 1 in 2 chance to have the condition.
Signs of a hemangioma
A hemangioma starts as a faint, red mark on the skin. It then grows very fast and can form a bumpy, bright-red lump. It can grow most often in the head or neck area. But it can occur anywhere on the skin, mucous membranes, or internal organs. It will keep growing for the first 3 to 5 months of life. Then it starts to shrink. Over time, it becomes smaller and lighter in color. In about half of children, it is gone by age 5. In most children, it is gone by age 10.
Diagnosing a hemangioma
Your child’s healthcare provider will diagnose your child’s skin growth. The diagnosis will be based on how it looks and if it changes over time. Your child may need to have an ultrasound. This can help his or her healthcare provider make the diagnosis.
Treatment for a hemangioma
Treatment for a hemangioma depends on its size, location, and how severe it is. A hemangioma may grow until your child is about 12 months of age. Then it will start to shrink. In many cases, it will go away without treatment.
If your child has a hemangioma near his or her eyes or airway, it may need to be treated. It should be treated by a craniofacial doctor. This is a specialist in treating head and face problems. Your child’s healthcare provider may advise:
Possible complications of a hemangioma
A hemangioma can be life-threatening if it’s large or affects your child’s airway or another organ. A hemangioma can also be serious if it has bleeding that can’t be stopped.
Your child’s skin may not look normal after the hemangioma shrinks. Many children have scarring, skin discoloration, and tissue wasting (atrophy). Depending on where the growth is located, it may also cause physical problems. For example, your child may have trouble with vision, or moving part of his or her body.
Living with a hemangioma
A visible hemangioma can cause emotional and social issues. A support group can help your child and your family. Ask your child’s healthcare provider about support groups in your area.
When to call your child’s healthcare provider
Call the healthcare provider if your child has: