Haemangiomata of Skin

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PatientPlus articles are written by UK doctors and are based on research evidence, UK and European Guidelines. They are designed for health professionals to use, so you may find the language more technical than the condition leaflets.

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Haemangiomata appear as red to purple papules or plaques with a normal epithelial surface. Compression leads to partial emptying and the colour becomes less prominent. They may occur at any age, and remain fixed in site and size. There are various types:[1][2]   

  • Capillary naevus - this is a salmon-pink patch seen on the neck in up to 40% of infants. It may not fade, but is often covered by hair. Facial lesions tend to fade in the first year of life.[3]
  • Port-wine stain - this is a lesion lined with endothelial cells and containing blood vessels. It does not regress with age. It may be associated with Sturge-Weber syndrome (port-wine stain of the face, angiomas of the leptomeninges and choroid, and late glaucoma) and Klippel-Trénaunay syndrome (local overgrowth of soft tissue and bone in an extremity or more extensive area, port-wine stain, varicose veins, cutaneous angiomata and other variable features).[4] 
  • Vin rose patch - this is a pale pink lesion appearing as a birthmark due to dilatation of the sub-papillary dermal plexus.
  • Venous-lake angioma - these are are dark blue papules caused by dilatation of venules. They present in sun-exposed areas of the body, particularly the ears of elderly patients. The average age at presentation is 65 years. They are probably more common in men than in women. They are of little clinical significance, except that they can be confused with melanomas and pigmented basal cell carcinomas.[5] 
  • Cavernous haemangioma - this is also known as a strawberry naevus. It tends to regress after the first year of life and normally resolves completely after the age of 4 or 5. Persistent lesions or those causing obstruction of vision may require treatment.[3]
  • Cherry angioma - also known as Campbell de Morgan spots, they appear on the abdomen and chest and are red, slightly elevated keratoangiomata. They do not fade with pressure.[6]
  • Telangiectasias - these are permanent dilatations of groups of capillaries or venules. They may be inherited or associated with atopy, sun damage, connective tissue disease, raised oestrogen levels or venous hypertension.[7]

The compression test is useful, or the lesion can be examined with a dermatoscope (an instrument which assists in close examination of the skin) and the blood-filled cavities observed.[8] Sometimes an haemangioma may be confused with a malignant melanoma, if both are dark in colour and of recent origin. They can be differentiated by excision biopsy. Campbell de Morgan spots (cherry angiomas) are a type of haemangiomata which remain small and increase in number with age. A strawberry mark/naevus is a proliferating haemangioma that occurs in the first year of life and then regresses thereafter.

Venous-lake angiomas are also usually asymptomatic. Women are more likely to present for cosmetic advice or removal. They are soft and compressible. They often have a smooth surface. They are found most often on lips, face, neck and ears.


Actinic skin damage often occurs around venous lakes, as they have a shared aetiology.

  • Most haemangiomata require no treatment unless the patient is concerned about their appearance.
  • Port-wine stains are usually treated by camouflage but may wish to be referred for laser therapy (see 'When to refer', below).[9]
  • Cavernous haemangiomata may resolve spontaneously. However, if they affect normal development, such as development of binocular vision, or cause bleeding, obstruction of other organs or grow rapidly, they may need to be referred for treatment (see 'When to refer', below).[10] 

Lesions remain fixed but cause no problems.

Referral should be considered if diagnosis is in doubt or excision is required. Patients may require laser therapy for port-wine stains. This can be painful but a new technique, called pneumatic skin flattening, employed during laser treatment has been shown to reduce the discomfort.[11]

Other treatment options include interferon and surgical excision.[12] 

Further reading & references

  1. Capillary vascular malformation; DermNet NZ
  2. Infantile haemangioma; DermNet NZ
  3. Koshar J; Women's Health & Illness in The Expanding Family, Sonoma State University, 2009
  4. Klippel-Trénaunay-Weber image; MedicineNet
  5. Angiomas in adults; DermNet NZ
  6. Cherry angioma images; Dermnet Skin Disease Atlas, 2011
  7. Generalised essential telangiectasia; DermNet NZ
  8. Ferris LK, Harris RJ; New diagnostic aids for melanoma. Dermatol Clin. 2012 Jul;30(3):535-45. doi: 10.1016/j.det.2012.04.012.
  9. Alster TS, Railan D; Laser treatment of vascular birthmarks. J Craniofac Surg. 2006 Jul;17(4):720-3.
  10. Sterker I, Grafe G; Periocular hemangiomas in childhood--functional and esthetic results. Strabismus. 2004 Jun;12(2):103-10.
  11. Inolase Pneumatic Skin Flattening System; Plasmetic.com
  12. Richter GT, Friedman AB; Hemangiomas and vascular malformations: current theory and management. Int J Pediatr. 2012;2012:645678. doi: 10.1155/2012/645678. Epub 2012 May 7.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Dr Laurence Knott
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
4050 (v23)
Last Checked:
Next Review:

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