Hemangioma represents an abnormal collection of blood vessels forming a tumor-like structure. Hemangioma can be found in practically every organ and can vary in size from less than one millimeter to several centimeters. They are classified as benign tumors of vascular origin, but their clinical significance depends on their cause, location, growth speed, etc. As only skin hemangioma are visible, they are often reported by patients, whereas hemangioma of other body parts can only be detected with imaging techniques.
Causes of Hemangioma
A single cause of hemangioma has not yet been found, but scientists claim that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in their formation. It is unknown why blood vessels in hemangioma tend to bind together, forming a lump. Some studies claim that increased estrogen levels can be associated with a higher risk of developing hemangioma. Hemangioma are most commonly presented in Caucasians.
About 60% of skin hemangioma are present at birth, and the rest can appear at any time during life. The look of these skin changes depends on the depth of grouped blood vessels. If they are located in superficial layers of the skin, their surface resembles a strawberry with a bright red color and convoluted contours. On the other hand, if they are located under the skin, they can even look purple to dark blue. Hemangioma are usually painless unless if damaged by external force. So-called "cherry hemangioma" are very common in the elderly, but can also be seen in young people. It is a subtype of skin hemangioma that grows up to 1-2 millimeters and rarely more than one centimeter. They often appear as small red dots in different parts of the skin.
Complications of skin hemangioma are not common. Damaging them by scratching or tearing off can cause serious bleeding, especially with large hemangioma. Damaged hemangioma can evolve to ulcerations resulting in scarring. Large hemangioma that persist during childhood can cause social adaptation problems as these children might not be well accepted by other kids due to their visible anomaly. In those cases, treatment should be discussed in order to prevent psychological problems.
Results of some epidemiological studies show a higher risk of hemangioma of internal organs in persons with multiple skin hemangioma. Hemangioma are found in muscles, bones, liver, intestines, and other organs, and they can be detected with imaging techniques such as X-ray, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound.
Almost all hemangioma disappear spontaneously with time and do not require any treatment. However, if they are in awkward locations (e.g. eyelid), or if they affect aesthetics significantly, hemangioma can be treated with lasers, steroid injections or they can even be surgically removed. Embolization is another method of treatment and it involves the occlusion of blood vessel that provides blood supply to the hemangioma.
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