The Hidden Dangers Behind Hemangiomas

Considered a type of birthmark, hemangiomas are a cluster of small blood vessels on the surface of the skin and most commonly form on the face or neck at birth or shortly after. In most cases, these red to reddish-purple, raised areas are not harmful and go away after a few years, but Edwin Wortham, V, M.D. of Virginia Pediatric Ophthalmology Specialists, was recently reminded of when hemangiomas can be hiding a more serious problem.

“When hemangiomas are located close to the eye, they can often press on the cornea causing blurriness or other vision issues,” Wortham said. “When this happens, the affected eye will often try to overcompensate and the result can be a lazy eye or other serious sight issues.”

When a hemangioma begins pressing on the cornea, surgical removal can sometimes be required, according to Dr. Wortham, who performs these types of surgeries at Medarva at Stony Point Surgery Center. However, in most cases, early evaluation, monitoring of growth, and a treatment plan using topical, systemic prescription drugs, can often prevent the hemangioma from growing to the point that surgery is needed.

A patient Dr. Wortham recently saw was a 4-month-old with a hemangioma right beside the corner of the left eye and was the size of a pencil eraser. According to the parents, the hemangioma formed about a month after birth. The child’s dermatologist prescribed a topical ointment that is applied twice a day and should slow the growth. Dr. Wortham asked the child’s parents to monitor the area and make a follow-up appointment for three months, unless the size of hemangioma started to become excessively large in which case they should bring the child back in sooner.

Today, systemic or topical propranolol steroid injections and laser treatments may be helpful procedures used to remove or reduce hemangiomas that can affect the eyelid and block vision,” Dr. Wortham noted. “Each patient is different and the best solution is to start monitoring the hemangioma early and utilize the expertise of both a dermatologist and ophthalmologist to ensure all the right steps are being taken to prevent long-term damage.”

More information on hemangiomas and birthmarks can be found on WebMD by clicking here.

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