A hemangioma is a noncancerous clumping of blood vessels found on the skin or internal organs, most commonly the liver. Hemangiomas are often present at birth or develop in the first few months of life. Skin hemangiomas are quite common, mostly found on the face and neck. Liver hemangiomas rarely cause symptoms. Cavernous hemangiomas most commonly form on the brain or spinal cord and have a different outcome than the other types of hemangiomas. The cause of the clumping of the blood vessels is not well understood.
Skin hemangiomas form on the surface of the skin or in the fatty layer just underneath. It may at first appear as a flat birth mark, but will become a raised red rubbery or spongy lump over the first year. Most will stop growing at this point and after some time will begin to go away. Most skin hemangiomas disappear by age 10, though a faint discoloration may remain. Hemangiomas may affect the vision if they are on the eyelid.
Liver hemangiomas can form within the organ or on its surface. Liver hemangiomas may be estrogen sensitive, meaning they may grow if a woman is given estrogen supplements during menopause. Hemangiomas may also form on the kidneys, colon, and lungs. A hemangioma on any of these organs rarely causes problems unless it grows too large or multiple hemangiomas form. Symptoms may then include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. Occasionally they interfere with breathing. However, they usually go unnoticed unless picked up by an imaging study (MRI) being done for another reason.
Diagnosis is made by physical exam and imaging studies. Many hemangiomas will go away without treatment. If causing problems, treatment may include laser procedures, steroid injections, medication or surgical removal. If you or your child has been diagnosed with hemangioma, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.