Hemangioma

If your young infant has a red raised lump on the skin, you may have been distressed. But, these birthmarks are considered to be pretty harmless. Hemangiomas, also known as strawberry birthmarks, are the most common, benign growths in your baby. These marks range from tiny blebs to large, tumor-like growths.

Most of the hemangiomas seen in the infants don’t cause any complications and requires no treatment. Rarely, the hemangiomas may cause problems with breathing, eating, and seeing, where the treatment may be required. They grow rapidly during the first two months of life. When your baby turns one, the noncancerous tumor begins to shrink and disappear gradually and completely until your child is seven years old.

Hemangiomas are the benign tumors that may occur due to an abnormal buildup of the blood vessels. They appear anywhere on the body (mostly on the face, scalp, back or chest). Rarely, they occur in your internal organs.

Hemangiomas are seen mostly in white infants and premature babies.

Causes

The hemangiomas that occur in your organs and the skin have different causes. However, the actual causes of hemangiomas are not well understood. For an instance, the infantile hemangiomas may be because of abnormalities in the development of vascular system during the growth of the fetus. But, in most of the cases, the cause of the defect cannot be identified. Some types of hemangiomas may develop after an injury, but it is not proved that the injuries lead to the formation of hemangiomas. Some hemangiomas may occur as a result of genetic abnormalities such as cavernous hemangiomas in von Hippel-Lindau disease.

No known foods, exposure to chemicals, medications or the activities during the pregnancy can cause a hemangioma in your infant.

Symptoms

Hemangiomas often begin as a flat, red mark anywhere on the body. They are usually painless until the skin over the lump is ruptured. They are soft and rubbery to touch. The deep hemangiomas formed in the muscle or bones may cause pain and swelling which increases with activity.

Complications

If the hemangiomas form near the eyes, nose, lips, or neck of your infant, then it might cause difficulty while eating or breathing. Sometimes, the hemangiomas may cause bleeding and become infected if they are present in the diaper areas, skin folds, and lips. If the hemangiomas are formed in the internal organs, it can cause bleeding and heart failure. This is a very rare condition.

Diagnosis

Often, a pediatrician diagnoses the condition based on the review of medical history and physical examination. However, certain imaging tests would be helpful to identify the hemangiomas in the internal organs. The tests include the following:

  • X-ray and computed tomography (CT) scans: These tests are suggested to obtain the detailed images of bones. CT scan helps to identify cavernous hemangioma.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This imaging test provides a detailed view of soft structures such as hemangioma.
  • Angiogram: During the test, a dye is injected into the blood stream to identify the hemangiomas.
  • Biopsy: This test is used to differentiate hemangiomas from other types of tumors. During the test, a tissue sample of the tumor is removed to examine under the microscope.
  • Blood tests: Sometimes, if the cause of hemangioma is suspected as genetic mutations, your doctor will likely recommend specific blood tests.

Treatment

In most of the cases, your infant may not require any treatment. Your doctor suggests the treatment based on the location of hemangioma and extent of causing the problems.

Medication management

  • Beta blockers: If the hemangioma is small and superficial, your doctor may prescribe a topical beta-blocker such as timolol. An oral solution of propranolol would help in treating the infantile hemangioma.
  • Corticosteroids: If the beta blockers do not have any effect, then your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids.

Surgical management

Your doctor might suggest a surgery if the lesion (ruptured hemangioma) is damaging the surrounding healthy tissues. Your doctor surgically removes the hemangioma by making an incision in the skin and cutting the tumor out.