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Exploring Hemangiomas

By By Sharon Scott, DNP, MSN, RN

Exploring Hemangiomas

Hemangiomas are strawberry-like birthmarks that can appear anytime within the first 6 months of life, and most likely will one day disappear as simply as it emerged.

1 in 10 babies will have a birthmark called a hemangioma, which appears and feels like a rubbery, fluid-filled bump most likely on a baby’s face, head, chest or back. This micro-collection of extra blood vessels can appear during the first few days post birth and grow for up to 12 months, say experts at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The most common are infantile hemangiomas that peak around 3-4 months of age in a baby and then eventually go away on their own. Some grow rapidly for up to a year.

By age 5, about half of hemangiomas have gone away on their own meaning they start to shrink and may leave only a slight discoloration in the skin that shows where they once were. Typically by age 7 almost all hemangiomas will shrink on their own. Most babies will have only one hemangioma, although they can have more.

What are hemangiomas?

These strawberry bursts are a noncancerous birthmark that develops after birth, but one-third may develop in the womb and be present at birth. These clusters of excess blood vessels may grow close to the surface or deeper below the skin.

Although most hemangiomas cause no problems, rare complications that can happen include:

  • a hemangioma near a child’s eye or throat that can affect vision or breathing
  • a large facial hemangioma that can disfigure a child’s face
  • a hemangioma on an internal organ that could cause internal bleeding (exceedingly rare)

Is my baby at risk for a hemangioma?

Researchers led by Joyce Bischoff, PhD, at Boston Children’s Vascular Biology program, recently discovered that hemangiomas appear to originate from stem cells. So far, research has also determined that these tumors aren’t hereditary, and no known activity, action or substance during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with a hemangioma, experts at Boston Children’s say. They’re more common in girls than boys, Caucasian babies and premature babies.

Treatment

For larger hemangiomas that may not resolve on their own, your healthcare provider may advise corticosteroids to help shrink the hemangioma. Excess skin or fat left where the hemangioma was can be removed surgically, if desired. Extra blood vessels in the area can also be eliminated through pulsed-dye laser therapy.

Since hemangiomas are blood vessels, you should seek care if your child’s hemangioma bursts open or begins to bleed. You may need to take your child either to your healthcare provider’s office or a local emergency room, particularly if the bleeding is severe.

Further reading: The Importance of Skin to Skin

Sharon Scott, DNP, MSN, RN, is an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby.


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