A hemangioma refers to a non-cancerous/benign tumor made up of blood vessels. It usually develops on the surface or just below the skin. The common areas where a hemangioma may develop include the scalp, face, chest and back. It may also affect the internal organs such as the lungs, liver, colon and brain. A hemangioma that develops at birth or during the early months thereafter is referred to as an infantile hemangioma.
Symptoms of Hemangioma
A hemangioma may appear as a reddish inflammation on the skin of the face, chest, back or scalp, either at birth or in the first or second week following birth. It begins as a red mark that may progress into a larger rubbery mass protruding from the skin. However, later it enters a resting phase and tends to fade away on its own. Hemangiomas usually disappear by the age 5 while some may fade by the age 10. The disappearance of a hemangioma in later years leaves behind an area of raised or discolored skin.
Problems Associated with Hemangioma
Hemangiomas are usually painless and subside on their own. However, some may open and bleed or ulcerate resulting in pain.
Hemangiomas may also result in skin disfiguration and damage to internal tissues and organs based on their size and location.
Diagnosis of Hemangioma: When to see a doctor?
Hemangiomas that develop externally are usually detected through physical examination. However, to confirm an internal hemangioma additional tests may be performed. These include:
- Imaging tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and computerized tomography (CT) scans.
- Blood tests
- Angiogram: This test involves injection of a dye into the blood stream to detect any abnormality.
- Biopsy: A tissue sample is collected and examined under a microscope. Your doctor may administer an anesthetic prior to collecting the sample through a needle.
Treatment of Hemangioma
Hemangiomas that fade away naturally usually don’t require any treatment. However, if a hemangioma affects the internal organs and causes pain, difficulty in breathing, vision impairment or hampers other body functions, then it will require medical intervention. The common treatment options aim to slow the growth of the hemangioma. These include:
- Oral medications
- Topical gels for application on the affected skin area
- Corticosteroids in the form of injections or gels
- Laser therapy - usually recommended for hemangiomas of the scalp and skin
- Embolization: This is a minimally invasive procedure to block blood supply to the tu It involves injection of fine particles into the blood vessels to close them.
- Sclerotherapy: This procedure involves closure or shrinkage of a blood vessel by injecting chemical agents into it. This helps to reduce tumor size and minimize
- Surgery is recommended if the hemangioma becomes cancerous and is destroying the surrounding healthy tissues.
- Surgery for hemangioma involves an incision into your skin, removal of the tumor, and closure of the incision.
Care after Hemangioma Surgery
Your doctor will wrap the operated area with a compressive bandage to suppress inflammation. You will be given specific instructions along with pain-relief medications to facilitate a smooth and quick recovery.
Risks associated with Hemangioma Surgery
Though the surgery for hemangioma is relatively safe, it is associated with certain risks such as infection, blood loss, and the possibility of recurrence of a new hemangioma.
Discuss with your doctor to learn more about hemangioma.