A hemangioma is an abnormal buildup of blood vessels in the skin or internal organs.
About one third of hemangiomas are present at birth. The rest appear in the first several months of life.
The hemangioma may be:
- In the top skin layers (capillary hemangioma)
- Deeper in the skin (cavernous hemangioma)
- A mixture of both
Symptoms of a hemangioma are:
- A red to reddish-purple, raised sore (lesion) on the skin
- A massive, raised, tumor with blood vessels
Most hemangiomas are on the face and neck.
The majority of small or uncomplicated hemangiomas may not need treatment. They often go away on their own and the appearance of the skin returns to normal. Sometimes, a laser may be used to remove the small blood vessels.
Cavernous hemangiomas that involve the eyelid and block vision can be treated with lasers or steroid injections to shrink them. This allows vision to develop normally. Large cavernous hemangiomas or mixed hemangiomas may be treated with steroids, taken by mouth or injected into the hemangioma.
Taking beta-blocker medicines may also help reduce the size of a hemangioma.
Small superficial hemangiomas will often disappear on their own. About half go away by age 5, and almost all disappear by age 9.
These complications can occur from a hemangioma:
- Bleeding (especially if the hemangioma is injured)
- Problems with breathing and eating
- Psychological problems, from skin appearance
- Secondary infections and sores
- Visible changes in the skin
- Vision problems
When to Contact a Medical Professional
All birthmarks, including hemangiomas, should be evaluated by your health care provider during a regular exam.
Hemangiomas of the eyelid that may cause problems with vision must be treated soon after birth. Hemangiomas that interfere with eating or breathing also need to be treated early.
Call your provider if a hemangioma is bleeding or develops a sore.
There is no known way to prevent hemangiomas.
Cavernous hemangioma; Strawberry nevus; Birthmark - hemangioma
Habif TP. Vascular tumors and malformations. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 23.
Martin KL. Vascular disorders. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 650.
Patterson JW. Vascular tumors. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015:chap 38.
Review Date 10/24/2016
Updated by: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.