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What Is a Hemangioma?

A hemangioma (hee-man-jee-OH-muh) is a type of birthmark that happens when a tangled group of blood vessels grows in or under the skin.

Because hemangiomas grow and change, they're called tumors, but they're not a kind of cancer. A hemangioma will not spread to other places in the body or to other people.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Hemangioma?

Some hemangiomas look like a rubbery red "strawberry" patch of skin, while others may cause a skin bulge that has a blue tint.

Most hemangiomas grow larger for several months, then shrink slowly. A hemangioma can cause problems if it affects body functions (such as vision and breathing), bleeds frequently, or breaks through the skin (called ulcerating).

What Causes Hemangiomas?

Doctors don't know what causes hemangiomas. Hemangiomas may run in families, but no genetic cause has been found.

Who Gets Hemangiomas?

Hemangiomas are more common in babies who:

A baby can have more than one hemangioma.

Just having a hemangioma doesn't put a baby at increased risk for health problems. But hemangiomas can happen in some syndromes (a syndrome is a combination of signs and symptoms that make up a particular health condition).

How Are Hemangiomas Diagnosed?

A hemangioma of the skin is usually recognized by its appearance. Depending on the hemangioma's type (congenital or infantile) and location, more testing might be needed to learn more about the hemangioma.

Rarely, a hemangioma can grow in an organ inside the body, such as the kidneys, lungs, liver, or brain, where it can't be seen.

How Are Hemangiomas Treated?

Often, a hemangioma will shrink (or "involute") without treatment until little or nothing of the blood vessel tangle remains, usually by the time a child is 10 years old. So most hemangiomas are not treated.

Treatment is recommended, though, if a hemangioma:

How it's treated depends on the type of hemangioma and other details. Treatment options, which may be used one at a time or in combination, include:

A hemangioma on a baby's face or head can create a cosmetic (appearance) problem. Doctors understand how much appearance can matter, and will work with parents to determine whether it's better to treat a baby's hemangioma or to let it go away on its own.

Looking Ahead

Other kids and adults may be curious about your child's hemangioma. Telling them that hemangiomas are birthmarks that eventually go away will take care of most questions.

After a hemangioma goes away on its own, it may leave behind some stretched skin. Cosmetic (plastic) surgery might be needed to remove the extra skin. Laser treatment can treat skin discoloration.

Date reviewed: November 2017

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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