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.  There are various types[1, 2]:

  • Capillary naevus - this is a salmon-pink patch seen on the neck in up to 40% of infants[1]. It may not fade but is often covered by hair. Facial lesions tend to fade in the first year of life.
  • 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[3]).
  • 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 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[4].
  • 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 years. Persistent lesions or those causing obstruction of vision may require treatment[5].
  • 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. Reflectance confocal microscopy, optical coherence tomography, ultrasonography and multispectral imaging are non-invasive imaging techniques that can be used to support clinical examination and dermatoscopy[9]. They can be differentiated by excision biopsy. Campbell de Morgan spots (cherry angiomas) are a type of haemangiomata which remains small and increases 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.

VENOUS LAKE -ON LIP

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 the patient may wish to be referred for laser therapy (see 'When to refer', below)[10].
  • Cavernous haemangiomata may resolve spontaneously. However, if they affect normal development, such as development of binocular vision, or cause bleeding, or obstruction of other organs, or grow rapidly, they may need to be referred for treatment (see 'When to refer', below)[5].

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 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. Klippel-Trénaunay-Weber image; MedicineNet
  4. Angiomas in adults; DermNet NZ
  5. Bang GM, Setabutr P; Periocular capillary hemangiomas: indications and options for treatment. Middle East Afr J Ophthalmol. 2010 Apr;17(2):121-8. doi: 10.4103/0974-9233.63071.
  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. Menge TD, Pellacani G; Advances in noninvasive imaging of melanoma. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2016 Mar;35(1):18-24. doi: 10.12788/j.sder.2016.003.
  10. Husain Z, Alster TS; The role of lasers and intense pulsed light technology in dermatology. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016 Feb 4;9:29-40. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S69106. eCollection 2016.
  11. Kautz G, Kautz I, Segal J, et al; Treatment of resistant port wine stains (PWS) with pulsed dye laser and non-contact vacuum: a pilot study. Lasers Med Sci. 2010 Jul;25(4):525-9. doi: 10.1007/s10103-009-0727-7. Epub 2009 Dec 15.
  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 makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other healthcare 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 (v24)
Last Checked:
02/12/2016
Next Review:
01/12/2021

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