Hemangioma is the most common benign tumor, or vascular birthmark, of infants. It is usually seen at birth but becomes more obvious within the first two weeks thereafter. It is a small, red blemish or bump. Hemangiomas occur in 5 percent to 10 percent of all children, and three times more often in females than males.

Types of Hemangiomas

  • Superficial - located in the upper layers of the skin
  • Mixed - located in the upper and lower layers of the skin or internal organs
  • Deep - located in deep tissue layers, muscle or internal organs

Complications from Hemangiomas

  • Serious complications that require treatment:
    • Visual obstruction
    • Airway obstruction or aural (ear) canal obstruction
    • Affecting internal organs or a large hemangioma causing high stress on the heart
  • Less serious complications that may or may not require treatment:
    • Ulcerations
    • Bleeding
    • Pain
    • Possibility of permanent facial disfigurement

A specialist must evaluate a hemangioma to prevent complications from developing.


Most lesions will become smaller on their own. About 50 percent will disappear by age 5. However, those that don’t may take up to 10 years to resolve without treatment. Treatment options include surgical excision, laser treatments, steroid and/or alpha interferon therapy, and rarely embolization or sclerotherapy.


The cause of hemangiomas is usually sporadic (occurs by chance). However, they can also be inherited in a family as an autosomal dominant trait. Autosomal dominant means that one gene is necessary to express the condition, and the gene is passed from parent to child with a 50/50 risk for each pregnancy. Males and females are equally affected and there is great variability in expression of the gene. In other words, a parent may unknowingly have had a hemangioma because it faded, but the child is more severely affected. The family may not come to the attention of a geneticist until the birth of the child with a more severe condition. Other relatives with mild expression of the gene are often discovered at that time, confirming autosomal dominant inheritance.

Hemangiomas are a manifestation of many different genetic syndromes that have a variety of inheritance patterns and chances for reoccurrence, depending on the specific syndrome present.

Patient with a rapidly growing hemangioma

One month after the first photograph

Two and a half years following laser and medical treatment