In the United States, 1 in every 100 children are born with hemangioma. Girls are 5 times more at risk of its occurrence than boys. Here's more about its causes and treatment options.
The word hemangioma is derived from Latin words hemangio, which means blood vessel, and oma, meaning tumor with active cell dividing activity. It is a non-malignant abnormal buildup of vascular mass in the skin. It differs from other vascular birthmarks, as its ontogeny is dependent on the growth and development of the child.
Types of Hemangioma
Most children have one hemangioma, but a few are known to have more than one, both on the skin and internal organs, and also of different types.
- Strawberry Hemangiomas: Strawberry birthmarks occur on the skin surface and become noticeable after a few weeks of birth. They are bright red in color and have a well-defined shape.
- Cavernous Hemangiomas: They occur deep in the skin, and the vascular mass is soft and bluish, with less defined borders. They are more likely to be present at birth, and grow steadily, unlike strawberry hemangiomas.
- Combined Hemangioma: Also known as mixed hemangioma, these are both dermal and superficial. They appear in the form of a soft lump of mass in the skin, and are red in color.
Causes and Symptoms
Its causes are currently not well-known, but most of the known causes are disputed by different medical and health organizations. Some studies suggest the importance of levels of estrogen in the growth of hemangioma, while some indicate the maternal placenta’s role in carrying certain particles to the fetal dermis, during gestation. According to some researchers, a genetic link in its cause cannot be ruled out.
Though its causes are disputed, its occurrence peculiarities are not. Besides girls, premature babies and twins, or more with lighter color skin, are prone to have hemangioma. Symptoms are the red- or blue-colored soft birthmarks, that regress or develop further as per their type. They mostly occur on the head, neck, chest or upper back.
Mostly small, superficial hemangiomas disappear on their own, between the age of 5 and 9. But some are known to cause the following complications:
- Bleeding and secondary skin infections from sores, especially if the hemangioma is injured on the diaper area.
- Psychological disorders caused due to physical appearance, and can provoke unwarranted attention and malicious reactions from others.
- When a hemangioma develops in the larynx, it causes difficulties in breathing and eating.
- Hemangioma lesions adjacent to a bone can also cause damage to it.
- On the eye or close to it, it can cause partial or complete blindness.
An evaluation needs to be done by a doctor for its severity and treatment. A physical examination is mostly done to diagnose the issue, however, in case of deep, or mixed and multiple lesions, a CT or MRI scan is recommended. When these interfere with vision, breathing, or cause significant cosmetic depressions, they are usually treated.
Lasers are used to reduce the size of the hemangiomas. They emit yellow light, which damages the vessels in the hemangioma, without damaging the skin over it. Unfortunately, raised lesions or lesions under the skin do not respond effectively to laser therapy. When the eyes or eyelids are involved, steroid injections are used, either alone or in combination with laser treatment.
Oral corticosteroid therapy is advised to successfully treat hemangiomas. Pulsed dye laser is very useful for treating early, flat superficial lesions, and also to accelerate healing. Beta-blocker using agents such as propranolol are under research for treatment.
Parents with babies who have hemangioma have a difficult time dealing with a lot of unwanted attention, causing anxiety which tends to seep into the children. There are no preventive measures one can take to safeguard the babies from developing them. However, continuous and new research is coming up with ways to cure hemangioma.