April 12, 2011

Hemangioma – Causes, Treatment and Complications

Posted in Category : General Health

There is general ignorance among most people as to what is hemangioma. An abnormal accumulation of blood vessels on the surface of the skin or internal organs is known as hemangioma. Hemangiomas in infants are a common occurrence especially in the first days or weeks after birth but it usually resolves in a couple of years. It is a mild tumor of the cells lining the blood vessels and is usually referred to as a birthmark. It is difficult to identify the causes of hemangioma though it could be blamed on hormonal imbalances within the body. If a hemangioma occurs in infancy, it usually fades in time and may even disappear completely. Hemangiomas are generally filled with blood and are connected to the blood circulatory system in the body. The appearance of these hemangiomas depends on where they are located. If located on the skin surface, they have a strawberry like appearance and are also called strawberry hemangiomas. If they are under the surface of the skin, they can appear like red swollen patches.

Hemangiomas are even known to grow in the larynx and the liver. Most hemangiomas are mistaken for bruises or scratches in their initial phase and can be correctly diagnosed only when they grow bigger. However, most of them disappear over a period of time. Hemangiomas are mostly found in Caucasians as compared to people of other ethnicities and women are most prone to them as compared to men. Majority of the hemagiomas are located on the face, neck and head. Irrespective of their location in the body, hemangiomas grow very quickly in size and volume. Then there is a stagnant phase where they stop growing and in the final stage they start fading and ultimately can even disappear totally. If the hemangioma is very large it can alter the surrounding skin and even leave marks when it disappears. Comparatively, a superficial hemangioma may not leave any trace of its existence.

Most hemangiomas do not have serious complications. If a hemangioma on the surface of the skin breaks or is injured, it can cause ulcerations and bleeding. This can also lead to secondary infections if the hemangioma is very large. If such ulcerations occur in babies, especially in the diaper region, it can be extremely painful. Hemangiomas on the eye can block normal vision and must be treated soon after birth. In some cases, internal hemangiomas cause problems in eating, breathing and other important functions and such hemangiomas need to be promptly treated. In rare cases, very large hemangiomas can even result in heart failure because the heart has to pump blood to all the extra blood vessels and this puts additional pressure on the heart. Hemangiomas that are very close to a bone can even cause bone erosion. Superficial hemangiomas usually do not require any treatment and tend to disappear with time leaving no scars behind. Larger hemangiomas can stretch the skin and even damage the surface while some others might interfere with important body functions and these would need to be treated with cosmetic surgery. Other treatment options include medications like corticosteroids which can be taken orally or can be injected into the hemangioma.

Treatment for hemangioma in children is also quite possible. Children who have hemangiomas in the liver can be treated by a procedure called embolization where minute particles are injected into the hemangioma to stop the blood flow. Hemangiomas are usually not removed by laser surgery due to the risk of scarring. Pulse dye surgeries can only help in lightening the color of the skin where the hemangioma occurs. In complex cases where the hemangioma is blocking the air passage, CO2 laser surgery is an option to get rid of the hemangioma. Some doctors even use a combination of injections and laser treatments to remove hemangiomas.