A hemangioma, or blood sponge, is a benign growth and little is known about its causes. Possible treatment methods are versatile.
What is a hemangioma (blood sponge)?
According to abbreviationfinder, a superficial hemangioma of the skin or mucous membrane is primarily manifested by elevations or bluish spots on the skin.
A hemangioma is an embryonic, mostly benign tumor. The hemangioma is also known as a blood sponge or strawberry spot. The hemangioma is the most common tumor observed in childhood.
In the majority of cases, erythema is found in the neck or head area, but erythema can also occur in internal organs (such as the liver). Up to about ten percent of newborns in Germany are affected by a blood fungus; Statistically speaking, the hemangioma occurs more frequently in girls than in boys.
If a hemangioma is very large or covers a large part of an extremity, it is referred to in medicine as a hemangiomatosis. In addition, different forms of hemangioma are distinguished. For example, there is the cavernous or the capillary hemangioma.
The causes that lead to a hemangioma have not yet been clarified in medicine. A blood sponge forms as part of an overgrowth or new formation of blood vessels; also not much is known about the cause of such a new formation.
Discussed are hereditary factors that contribute to a newborn’s development of hemangioma; thus, a susceptibility to hemangioma may be passed on through inheritance.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
A superficial hemangioma of the skin or mucous membrane is primarily manifested by elevations or bluish spots on the skin. The blue discoloration increases the deeper the blood sponge sits under the skin’s surface. Particularly deep-seated hemangiomas can resemble a bruise. A blood sponge reaches a size of a few millimeters to a few centimeters.
It may increase in size over time before the hemangioma shrinks and disappears completely after a few months or even years. Blood sponges usually appear shortly after birth. After a few weeks they are fully formed and can be clearly diagnosed. They can appear in different parts of the body, but are most common on the face, torso, and limbs.
Typically, hemangiomas are symptom-free. However, if they occur in the area of the eyelid, it can cause vision problems and problems opening the eye. Blood sponges in the armpits or in a skin fold are usually sensitive to pressure and painful when touched.
Occasionally, bleeding or inflammation of the affected skin occurs. Very rarely, a blood sponge can cause circulatory disorders. A large hemangioma can cause the symptoms of cardiac insufficiency and significantly reduce the patient’s quality of life.
Diagnosis & History
A hemangioma usually shows up as a discoloration that appears reddish to bluish. This vascular anomaly is already evident at birth in about a third of the children affected by a hemangioma. In the remaining cases, the hemangioma usually develops during the first four weeks of life.
As a rule, a blood sponge does not lead to symptoms; a spondylitis on the internal organs, for example, is often not discovered at all. A blood sponge often regresses on its own. In these cases, a distinction is made between a growth phase, a standstill phase and a regression phase:
The growth phase of a blood sponge lasts on average up to about 9 months, while the standstill phase is variable. The regression phase of a hemangioma is often completed by the time a child is 9 years old.
Complications such as pain or bleeding can occasionally occur with a rapidly growing hemangioma.
Since the hemangioma is a tumour, the various symptoms and complications of cancer can usually occur. In most cases, however, it is a benign tumor, so that there is no reduction in the patient’s life expectancy. Patients usually suffer from reddening of the skin and port-wine stains as a result of the hemangioma.
The redness of the skin can affect the aesthetics and appearance of the person affected and often lead to inferiority complexes or reduced self-esteem. It can also lead to depression and other psychological complaints that increase the life and everyday life of the patient. It is not uncommon for pain and bleeding to occur in the affected areas, which can reduce the patient’s quality of life.
Pain, especially at night, can make it difficult to sleep. In many cases, the hemangioma only develops in children and usually heals on its own, so that there are no symptoms in adulthood. Scarring may occur during treatment. However, no further complications arise.
When should you go to the doctor?
A hemangioma should always be treated by a doctor. Although it is a benign growth, it should be removed as it can turn into a malignant tumor. Early diagnosis and treatment always has a positive effect on the further course of the disease and can prevent complications. The affected person should consult a doctor if the hemangioma causes reddening of the skin. These can occur in different places. Port-wine stains can also point to the hemangioma. If the symptoms occur without any particular reason and persist for a longer period of time, it is highly advisable to see a doctor.
As a rule, a general practitioner or a dermatologist can be consulted directly in the event of a hemangioma. Whether treatment is necessary depends on the severity of the hemangioma and cannot generally be predicted. In most cases, however, the course of the disease is positive and there are no special complications.
Treatment & Therapy
Since a blood sponge often regresses on its own, no therapy is necessary in many cases. A hemangioma can be treated, for example, if the person concerned wants it for cosmetic reasons (or if it is wanted by parents whose child has a hemangioma).
One way to treat a hemangioma is with laser therapy. A very small and flat hemangioma, for example, can also be treated with cold therapy, the so-called cryotherapy. Here, cold is used to remove a blood sponge. However, the method of cryotherapy has the disadvantage that scars can occur as a result of the treatment.
Experts often advise against an operation to remove a blood sponge. However, an operation can be useful if other methods cannot be used successfully or if the hemangioma is rapidly growing and threatens to impair the function of other body structures (e.g. a sponge in the immediate vicinity of the eye).
In some cases it can also be useful to treat a hemangioma with medication; for example, if an affected person has several hemangiomas or suffers from hemangiomatosis. Corticosteroids, for example, are used here. Such treatment usually extends over several weeks.
The blood sponge is usually treated in such a way that the drug is dosed quite high at the beginning of the therapy and the dose is reduced during the course of treatment. In complicated cases, a hemorrhage can also be treated with beta-blockers.
In principle, it is not possible to prevent a haemangioma, since too little is known about the development mechanisms and the causes behind a hemangioma .
Follow-up care for hemangiomas depends on the previous therapy. If it is a hemangioma that has been surgically removed due to its location or spread, the usual aftercare after an operation must be observed. This includes regular outpatient wound checks and a check to see whether the hemangioma has been completely removed.
Acute follow-up care is also accompanied by medication with painkillers. In the case of non-operative follow-up care and a larger hemangioma, treatment with propranolol is monitored by a general practitioner or pediatrician. At the same time, it is checked whether the propranolol is working and whether the hemangioma is regressing. Follow-up care includes checking whether the dosage of propranolol is sufficient and whether the patient is still properly controlled.
This avoids overdosing or underdosing. Since propranolol is a beta blocker for cardiovascular diseases, regular monitoring is necessary. Follow-up with propranolol lasts about six months to a year. If, due to the size and location of the hemangioma, neither surgical follow-up nor propranolol treatment takes place, the hemangioma usually regresses on its own. Nevertheless, this process should be accompanied as part of a general medical follow-up to rule out enlargement or complications during regression.
You can do that yourself
Smaller blood sponges are usually harmless and will recede on their own after a while. In children, however, the tumor must be observed very closely. If the hemangioma does not recede after several months or even increases in size, you must see a doctor. If it is a benign blood sponge, it does not have to be removed. At some point, however, the child will wonder about the tumor and may also suffer from it mentally. Then either a surgical intervention is an option or – if an operation is too risky – the child must at least be explained what the sponge is all about.
The regression of a hemangioma can be promoted by various means from nature. Marigold and cypress, for example, have proven themselves, as have Swedish herbs and houseleek. A suitable homeopathic remedy is southernwood, called Abrotanum. The use of these funds should be discussed in any case with the doctor. This may even involve an experienced naturopath. If the blood sponge causes complications, conservative treatment is always required.