Identifying the type of vascular anomaly is the first step. Because treatment varies drastically, it is important that you or your child be seen by a team of experts who are experienced in treating all types of vascular abnormalities.
Hemangiomas are the most common type of vascular tumor. These benign growths of blood vessels are often seen in infants and can range in size. While most shrink on their own, hemangiomas that are present in internal organs can interfere with vital functions such as vision, feeding, or breathing. They can also cause frequent bleeding or significant cosmetic deformity. The treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor.
Vascular malformations are an abnormally formed combination of capillaries, veins, arteries, or lymphatic vessels. They can appear anywhere on the body and, depending on the type, can cause pain; frequent, uncontrolled bleeding; deformities; or an increased risk of blood clots.
- Vascular malformations in the brain may trigger headaches or seizures.
- Vascular malformations in the airway can cause speech problems or breathing concerns.
- Vascular malformations in the eyes can cause vision problems.
- Vascular malformations in the intestines can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
Capillary Malformation or Port-Wine Stain
Capillary malformation or port-wine stain is a red or purple flat area on the skin. They are present at birth but can become darker and thicker as a person ages. In rare cases, port-wine stains can be a sign of a serious neurological disorder. Repeated treatments with a laser may lighten large, dark port-wine stains.
Venous malformation is a collection of veins that can occur anywhere on the body. Sometimes these areas can become swollen or painful or even bleed. Monitoring is important. Treatment can include compression garments, anticoagulation medication, sclerotherapy (a non-surgical treatment that involves injecting a chemical under ultrasound and X-ray guidance), or surgery. Venous malformations may not cause symptoms until adolescence because growth can be triggered by hormonal changes associated with puberty. Venous malformations are often lifelong issues that require comprehensive team care.
Arteriovenous malformations are abnormal connections between arteries and veins. They require monitoring and early treatment, as they usually grow throughout a person’s life.
Lymphatic malformations occur when lymphatic vessels form abnormally during fetal development. They often appear as either small, clear blisters on the skin that do not go away, or very large swellings, especially of the neck. They typically form in the head or neck area. If the lesion is in the neck, it can be life-threatening. Lymphatic malformations that put you or your child at risk for permanent disfigurement or affect physical, emotional, and social well-being may be treated with drug therapy, laser treatment, or sclerotherapy to shrink the malformation. Surgery may also be recommended to remove the malformation.