A facial hemangioma is a benign tumor of epithelial cells located on the face. This type of tumor is extremely common, often appearing between birth and 18 months of age, and it will usually resolve on its own without any need for medical intervention. Removal may be recommended if a facial hemangioma is causing distress, either because the appearance is unpleasant or the growth is making it hard for the patient to see, eat, or swallow. Removal options vary, depending on the type, location, and size of the tumor.
Superficial hemangiomas, sometimes called strawberry birthmarks, present as small red patches on the skin. They may initially be mistaken as mild cuts or scratches. As the tumor grows, it can swell and become more obvious. Deep hemangiomas involves a tangle of cells below the skin. Sacs filled with blood form above the tumor, creating a network of bluish lines that will be visible on the patient's face. These tumors can also cause facial swelling, creating a protruding lump, and they may lead to discomfort.
A facial hemangioma can gradually reabsorb several years after it forms, with most growths disappearing by the time the patient turns 10. Sometimes, the growths do not disappear or they cause problems. A highly visible mark may be distressing for the patient, as it will attract unwanted attention. Large tumors can push against the airway or cause problems with vision, hearing, or eating. In these cases, facial hemangioma removal is usually recommended.
Steroids can be used in treatment to shrink the tumor and hasten the eventual breakdown of the tumor cells. In addition, patients may be offered options like cryosurgery, where the cells are frozen, causing them to explode. The damaged cells will eventually slough away, leaving unaffected skin behind. In the case of very large and deep tumors, surgery may be necessary to excise the growth. A doctor can provide information about treatment options after evaluating the patient.
People who notice skin changes in their infants should take note of them, while remaining aware that they are not a cause for immediate panic. Most are benign, like a facial hemangioma, and they can be discussed with a pediatrician at the next office visit. Changes accompanied with extreme pain, heat, swelling, or rapid discoloration may be more serious. Parents can call a nursing hotline to describe the symptoms and get advice on where and when to seek treatment.