What is a Capillary Haemangioma?
The small, tiny blood vessels in our body are called capillaries. An abnormal growth of these tiny blood vessels or capillaries grouped at one place is known as a capillary haemangioma. They are very commonly known as strawberry birthmarks, or nevus. These haemangiomas are non-cancerous (benign) and they are more common in girl population and in premature babies. This is the commonest type of haemangioma. It looks just like a patch of flesh that is a bit raised and can be bumpy. This haemangioma is also known as infantile haemangioma.
These marks even if not present at birth, they develop within for weeks to six months of a child’s life and slowly begin to decrease in size from 12 to 15 months. They completely disappear for most of the kids by the age they turn five and in almost every child by the time they reach their tenth birthday. In very few cases they stay the same and do not disappear.
Site of Occurrence of Capillary Haemangioma
Capillary haemangiomas are the commonest of the orbital tumors, but are seen to appear anywhere on the body, though they are more frequently seen on the head and neck. On the face they are seen mostly near or in the eyes, which may be alarming at times, as their location will greatly influence a child’s vision. They may be present on the skin, just below the skin, in the mouth or on the lips. The may also be seen on the internal organs, like lungs, liver and kidneys and spleen even.
Signs and Symptoms of a Capillary Haemangioma
Though they may look quite fleshy and serious in appearance, it is generally advised by the physicians to not undergo any treatment for it, as they are not very harmful. It is only advised to interfere with them if they are hampering any organ’s functions.
The capillary haemangiomas may be cutaneous (on the skin), sub-cutaneous (just below the skin) or orbital. Those which are cutaneous usually appear bright red and bumpy. The ones that are sub-cutaneous may appear purple due to their deep and dense vascular network. The orbital ones may extend deep into the orbit. These may change color on pressure and with crying. They may be spongy. But there is no pulsation in them.
When present on the eyelids, they may cause drooping of the eyelids due to the pressure, which may cause ptosis and may affect a child’s vision. They may even cause strabismus of the eye.
Diagnosis of Capillary Haemangioma
If the haemangioma is cutaneous, means superficial on the skin, just clinical correlation is enough for the diagnosis. But, it is advisable to undergo an ultrasound to gauge the extent of its growth and spread in the body, especially when eyes are involved. If they are suspected to be very deep in the eyes, then a CT scan or an MRI should be advised to see the extent of its growth.
Treatment and Management of a Capillary Haemangioma
As with other haemangiomas, the capillary haemangioma also grows rapidly in the initial phase, and then shrinks in size slowly over the period. Hence, if a capillary haemangioma is not causing any serious vision impairment, it is best to leave it untouched. It will reduce in due course of time. But, if it is causing vision impairment, then it needs to be attended to. Certain medications are used to regress the capillary haemangioma to some extent with some positive effects. Surgical intervention is an option, but it is also limited as eyesight is in question, plus, the chances of haemorrhage may be great during the surgery.
It is essential to monitor the person for the vision related problems, even after the treatment is complete.
Capillary haemangiomas, though in most cases not of any consequence, they are still to be monitored closely to avoid any potential damage to the vision.
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