An infantile hemangioma is an overgrowth of tiny blood vessels or capillaries. Infantile hemangiomas are benign (noncancerous) tumors. They are sometimes called strawberry or raspberry birthmarks. An infantile hemangioma on the skin is a red to reddish-purple raised mass, while a hemangioma found deeper in the skin may look bluish in color. They are a type of vascular anomaly.
Infantile hemangiomas occur in about 2 out of 100 births and are more common in premature infants and girls. An infantile hemangioma may not be present at birth but may appear within the first six months of life. Infantile hemangiomas have a growth phase characterized by rapid growth between the ages of 0 to 4 months old. Slower growth may be observed up until 12 to 18 months of age. After 18 months of age, most hemangiomas start to regress or get smaller. About 90 percent disappear before children reach the age of 10.
Infantile hemangiomas can appear anywhere on the body, but they are often found on the face and neck. Depending on the size and location, a hemangioma may bother a parent or child for cosmetic reasons, or it may interfere with normal important functions. It is best to talk with a doctor who is trained in hemangiomas to determine if the lesion is at risk for causing permanent disfigurement or a medical problem. Many safe treatments exist for problematic hemangiomas.
In the eye area, hemangiomas may be on the eyelids, conjunctiva or eye socket. Hemangiomas near the eye are important to diagnose. Although they may look small, they can put pressure on the eye and cause vision irregularities. These irregularities can lead to permanent loss of vision (amblyopia) or crossed eyes (strabismus) if not identified and treated early. Treatment is best when initiated early (within the first three months of life).
If parents suspect a hemangioma, they should have their child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider evaluate the mass. Doctors at Riley at IU Health work with referring physicians and families to determine the treatment options that are best suited to each child.
Doctors can determine if your child has a hemangioma by looking at the growth. Additional tests may include a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan if the doctor suspects the hemangioma is deep in the skin or if there are other medical concerns.
Hemangiomas can be treated in a variety of ways. If a hemangioma is small and thin, a medicine called timolol can be applied topically, or an oral medication called propranolol can be administered. A brief hospital stay may be needed, but it is typically not required.
Steroid injections are another treatment option. An injection can cause the blood vessels to shrink and stop the hemangioma from growing.
Surgical excision is another option, but only for carefully chosen hemangiomas.
Laser skin therapy can lighten their color, but lasers are not effective for the deep, bulky hemangiomas that threaten visual development.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the largest national membership association of eye doctors. Their website contains recent research for parents and caregivers about the diagnosis and treatment of hemangioma.
The Hemangioma Investigator Group provides this educational website for parents of children with infantile hemangiomas.
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