Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

A hemangioma may be present at birth, but more often appears during the first several months of life. It starts out 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 and becomes a spongy mass that protrudes from the skin. The hemangioma then enters a rest phase and, eventually, it begins to slowly disappear.

About half of all hemangiomas resolve by age 5, and nearly all hemangiomas are resolved by age 10. Although the color of the birthmark also fades, faint — but permanent — discoloration of the skin or residual extra skin may remain.

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.

Causes

A hemangioma consists of an abnormally dense group of extra blood vessels. It's not clear what causes the blood vessels to group together, although there may be a hereditary component involved.

Risk factors

Hemangiomas occur more often in:

  • Females
  • Premature babies
  • White infants

Complications

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.

April 30, 2016
References
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  3. Hay WW, et al. Hemangioma. In: Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 22nd ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2014. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed Feb. 24, 2016.
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  6. Metry DW. Management of infantile hemangiomas. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 24, 2016.
  7. Leaute-Labreze C, et al. A randomized, controlled trial of oral propranolol in infantile hemangioma. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015;372:735.
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