Hemangiomas are common growths of blood vessels found on your skin. These growths can appear anywhere on your body, especially on your face, chest and back, as red or purple lumps. Hemangiomas are usually harmless and tend to resolve on their own.
Hemangiomas are a type of growth that appear as red or purple lumps on your skin. They’re made of rapidly dividing cells of blood vessel walls (endothelial cells). They may be present at birth, or become noticeable during infancy. Although hemangiomas are most common in infants and children, adults can develop them too. In fact, about 75% of people aged 75 and older have cherry hemangiomas.
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Hemangiomas are a type of birthmark. There are two types of birthmarks: red and pigmented. Hemangiomas are red birthmarks that are vascular (originating from blood vessels).
Yes, but not all tumors are cancer. A tumor is a growth of tissue that's swollen and can appear as a bump on your body. Non-cancerous tumors don’t spread to other parts of your body and aren’t life-threatening. Hemangiomas are a common, non-cancerous tumor that can be removed without the risk of coming back after surgery.
The two most common types of hemangiomas are:
Capillary hemangiomas appear on the outer layers of your skin.
Cavernous hemangiomas form in deeper layers of your skin, often around your eye.
Anyone can get a hemangioma at any point in their lifetime. They're common in:
Around 10% of babies are born with a hemangioma.
Hemangiomas slowly disappear over time. The majority aren't life-threatening.
Hemangiomas are caused by blood vessels that don’t form properly. The direct cause is unknown. In children, hemangiomas are caused by blood vessels that don’t develop correctly during pregnancy. Though some hemangiomas develop in adults after an injury or illness, researchers haven’t established what causes hemangiomas.
Hemangiomas grow on or within your skin. They can form anywhere on your body, with more than half growing on your head and neck. Sometimes, hemangiomas can be found on organs like your liver.
A hemangioma looks like:
Hemangiomas located near your mouth — or the diaper area in infants — commonly bleed due to friction. If these locations become red, change color or become ulcerated (turn into an open wound), it could be a sign of infection.
Most hemangiomas don’t hurt. Since hemangiomas stand out on your skin, they can be easily injured if bumped or scraped. In the case of an injury to your hemangioma, you should treat it like any other wound with hygienic cleaning, applying antibacterial ointment and covering it with a bandage.
Cavernous hemangiomas may cause pain depending on their location, especially if they’re found on muscles or in bones.
Hemangiomas begin shrinking in size when a baby is 12 to 18 months old and often disappear by age 10.
Capillary hemangiomas are diagnosed by a visual examination by a healthcare provider. Some hemangiomas on the organs can be diagnosed during an imaging test, like an ultrasound.
For most hemangiomas that aren’t obstructing vision near your eyes, treatment isn't necessary. They tend to disappear on their own over time. Hemangiomas that are located near your eyes may lead to vision problems if left unchecked.
In some cases, a doctor may prescribe medication — a beta blocker like oral propranolol or timolol gel, or a steroid — to shrink the blood vessels and reduce the appearance of the hemangioma.
Yes. If a hemangioma is bothersome to you, a surgeon can remove it. This is common practice with cherry hemangiomas. Although many hemangiomas don't cause harm, people often opt to have them removed because they don’t like how they look.
Laser treatment can sometimes reduce the size or stop the growth of hemangiomas.
Involution is when your hemangioma shrinks in size and often disappears. Nearly half of all hemangiomas in infants gradually disappear by age 5 and 90% disappear by age 10.
There's currently no way to prevent hemangiomas.
No, hemangiomas in infants aren't caused by ignoring cravings, specific foods, activities, medication or exposure to chemicals during pregnancy. Rest assured: most hemangiomas cause no harm and disappear over time.
Since most hemangiomas go away on their own, doctors may not treat them when they first appear, unless they grow quickly, block vision, block airways or turn into wounds (ulcerate). In the case of severe hemangiomas that could cause problems with your child’s development, a doctor may recommend treatment.
Contact your healthcare provider if the hemangioma:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The majority of hemangiomas are harmless. The good news is that the best treatment for hemangiomas is time. Over time, your hemangioma should disappear on its own. Watch for potential warning signs of an unusual hemangioma, like color changes, bleeding, vision changes, or difficulty eating or breathing. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice these or other sudden changes to your hemangioma.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/28/2022.
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