Hemangioma Signs and Symptoms

Hemangiomas most commonly appear during the first month of life. The initial phase of rapid proliferation typically lasts less than a year. During this time, the hemangioma can grow surprisingly large. Over the next few years, the tumor begins to involute and completely regresses by the time the child is 5–10 years of age. The lesion may heal with no perceptible scar, or it may leave a gray, fibrous residue with various small blood vessels. The skin may appear loose or slack.

Hemangiomas, sometimes called strawberry hemangiomas, can be deep or superficial. A deep hemangioma is a blood vessel proliferation that occurs in the deeper layers of the skin. It can be flat or slightly raised and may appear bluish or dusky, and blood vessels may be visible. Superficial hemangiomas are bright pink or red in color and protrude from the surface. Some hemangiomas are both superficial and deep.

Multiple hemangiomas occur in 20 percent of cases. There may be a few or numerous small lesions appearing on the skin. They may involve both the skin and the internal organs. Involution of multiple hemangiomas occurs more rapidly than involution of solitary lesions and is completed by the time the child has reached 1 to 2 years of age.

Hemangioma Complications

Complications include ulceration, bleeding, and infection with rapidly growing hemangiomas. A hemangioma around the eye can prevent an infant from opening it, permanently endangering the child's vision and requiring aggressive treatment. Similarly, when a hemangioma blocks the oral or nasal passages, or the genital or anal areas, treatment is critical.

Rare Complications of Hemangioma

Rarely, there have been associations with abnormalities of underlying bone structure and with a disorder of blood clotting, which is likely caused by blood clotting cells (platelets) collecting in the hemangioma, reducing the presence of platelets elsewhere in the body. In these cases, treatment of the clotting disorder and the hemangioma should be initiated rapidly, because this condition can be life-threatening. Hemangiomas on the liver can put stress on the organ, resulting in increased blood flow to the heart and potential heart failure.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Sep 2000

Last Modified: 23 Oct 2014