Hemangiomas are growths of blood vessels. They’re also called birthmarks. But they often can't be seen at birth. They usually form in the first few weeks of life.
These growths often start as faint red marks. They are the most common type of noncancerous (benign) skin growths. Females are 3 times more likely to get them than males.Hemangiomas are more common in multiple births and low-birth weight premature infants.Most hemangiomas are in the head or neck area, but they can occur anywhere in the skin, mucous membranes, or internal organs. Most will keep growing for the first 3 to 5 months of life. Then they start to shrink. Almost 50% disappear by the age of 5 and the vast majority are gone by age 10. The rate of shrinkage, however, varies. It is also important to know that complete shrinkage does not always result in normal looking skin. Up to 50% of children with hemangiomas have ongoing skin issues such as scarring, skin discoloration, and tissue wasting (atrophy).
Vascular malformations are also growths of blood vessels. They also are noncancerous. They are present at birth. They’re also called birthmarks. But they may not be seen for months or weeks after birth. They grow slowly throughout life. They don’t shrink.
There are 5 types of vascular malformations. They are:
The cause of hemangiomas and vascular malformations often isn’t known. They may be passed on (inherited) in some families.
The way they’re 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, the family has a 1 in 2 chance that each child will have this condition.
Hemangiomas start as faint, red birthmarks. Then they grow very fast. Over time, they become smaller and lighter in color.
Vascular malformations are also birthmarks. They grow much more slowly than hemangiomas. They don’t shrink.
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 will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment for hemangiomas depends on their size, location, and how severe they are. Small hemangiomas often shrink on their own. These usually don’t need treatment.
If your child has a hemangioma near his or her eyes or airway, it may need to be treated. Your child’s healthcare provider may suggest the following:
Treatment for vascular malformations depends on the type of malformation. If your child has a large or life-threatening growth, he or she may need a team of doctors. These can include plastic surgeons, skin doctors (dermatologists), eye doctors (ophthalmologists), and other specialists. Your child may need a combination of treatments. These may include:
These conditions can be life-threatening if they’re large or affect your child’s airway or another organ. A hemangioma can also be serious if it has uncontrollable bleeding.
Depending on where your child’s growth is located, it may cause physical problems. Your child may have trouble seeing or moving part of his or her body.
Hemangiomas may grow until your child is about 12 months of age. Then they start to shrink. In many cases, they will go away without treatment.
Other hemangiomas need to be treated. These should be treated by a craniofacial doctor. This is a specialist in diagnosing and treating head and face problems. Make sure your child’s doctor has experience with hemangiomas.
Vascular malformations don’t shrink or go away without treatment. Your child should see a craniofacial doctor with experience in treating vascular malformations.
Noticeable hemangiomas and vascular malformations can cause psychological and social issues. Support groups can help you, your child, and your family. Ask your child’s healthcare provider about support groups in your area.
Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child’s hemangioma or vascular malformation causes issues. These include bleeding or trouble with feeding or breathing.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: