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What is a hemangioma?

POSTED: August 18, 2014 4:00 p.m.
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A hemangioma, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is "a birthmark that most commonly appears as a rubbery, bright red nodule of extra blood vessels in the skin."

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A hemangioma, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is "a birthmark that most commonly appears as a rubbery, bright red nodule of extra blood vessels in the skin."

The vascular abnormality is common — occurring in about 1 out of every 100 births, according to Kids Health — and sometimes referred to as a strawberry mark, stork bite or port-wine stain. The cause of hemangiomas, however, is unknown.

There are three types of hemangiomas: a capillary hemangioma, which develops on the top layer of skin; a carernous hemangiom, which forms deeper in the skin; and a combination of the two.

Hemangiomas are more common in babies with fair skin. More females than males, and premature babies tend to develop these vascular abnormalities, the Mayo Clinic says. While a hemangioma can be present at birth, it may also develop several weeks afterward.

The good news is this type of birthmarks rarely causes problems, and many go away on their own. Some, however, are permanent.
Most permanent hemangiomas are not treated before a child reaches school age unless it is causing problems.

Occasionally, a child will experience discomfort or bleeding at the site of the vascular birthmark. Treatment should be considered if the hemangioma becomes painful; changes in size, shape or color; or causes severe emotional distress.

If your doctor thinks removal of the hemangioma is the best option, he or she will likely choose one of the following options:Corticosteroids or beta-blocker medicines, such as propranololFreezing the hemangiomaLaser treatments (to stop growth or remove the hemangioma)Surgical removalIn general, hemangiomas are more of an emotional concern than a physical health concern. Unless there is a physical problem, doctors usually don't like to treat them because of potential side effects, the Mayo Clinic says.

Removal of a hemangioma has best results the earlier it is done and the smaller size of the hemangioma.

Suzanne Carlile, "Nurse Suzy," has been a nurse since 1982. Her main focus is critical care and nursing education. She holds a master's degree in nursing, is a Certified Emergency Nurse, and a member of NNSDO Intermountain West Chapter.

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