What is a capillary hemangioma?
A capillary hemangioma (“strawberry” birthmark) is a non-cancerous tumor consisting of an abnormal overgrowth of tiny blood vessels. Capillary hemangiomas are usually not present at birth but appear in the first 6 months. Most regress nearly completely by 5 or 6 years of age.
Where on the body do capillary hemangiomas occur?
Capillary hemangiomas can be found anywhere on the body. Eye involvement includes eyelids, the eye surface called the conjunctiva and eye socket or orbit.
Why do capillary hemangiomas on the eyelids cause vision problems?
Amblyopia can occur in an eyelid hemangioma if it causes undue pressure on the eye leading to astigmatism. This may blur the vision and result in a type of refractive amblyopia. Hemangiomas on the eyelid can also block, or occlude, the line of sight and result in occlusion amblyopia.
How does a capillary hemangioma in the eye socket cause vision problems?
A capillary hemangioma in the eye socket can put pressure on the eye and result in amblyopia or strabismus. It can also press on the optic nerve which may cause optic nerve atrophy.
Do all capillary hemangiomas around the eye need to be treated?
No. Many capillary hemangiomas around the eye are simply monitored for the development of vision problems. If the vision is not affected, treatment is often not needed.
How are capillary hemangiomas treated?
Capillary hemangiomas can be treated in a variety of ways and depend on the location of the hemangioma, its severity, and whether or not it is causing vision problems.
Steroid medications are often used to treat hemangiomas. Steroids can stop the progression of hemangiomas by causing the blood vessels to shrink. Depending on the size and location of the hemangioma steroids may be prescribed by mouth, injected directly into the hemangioma, or applied to the surface of the hemangioma.
Propranolol is a medication that has recently been shown to be effective in treating hemangiomas with fewer side effects than steroids. Propranolol can be taken orally or can be applied topically (Timolol eye drops) if the hemangioma is very small and thin.
A laser treatment can sometimes be used on superficial hemangiomas to prevent growth, diminish their size or lighten their color.
How long does it take for the capillary hemangioma to go away?
Capillary hemangiomas typically take several years to regress. The involved skin may retain a red color or may be slightly puckered in appearance, or may look perfectly normal depending upon how completely the hemangioma resolves..