Hemangioma Near the Eye

What is a hemangioma?

A hemangioma is an abnormal growth of blood vessels. It is a non-cancerous growth of blood vessels. Hemangiomas can occur anywhere on the body but frequently occur on the face and neck. While they can be present at birth, hemangiomas more often grow or appear during the first 6 months of life. Hemangiomas on the skin can begin as a spot on the baby’s skin that grows in size and color. A hemangioma can grow to become a red to red-purple raised lesion on the skin and can sometimes get very large.

When hemangiomas grow on the eyelids, the surface of the eye, or in the eye socket, they can interrupt normal development of vision. Hemangiomas can affect the vision in several ways.

  • On the eyelids, a hemangioma can interfere with vision or put pressure on the eye causing vision problems.
  • Inside the eye socket, hemangiomas can press on the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain. This can damage the nerve can cause a condition called optic atrophy which can cause vision loss.
  • Hemangiomas can also affect the appearance of the eyelids or eye socket.

Hemangiomas usually gradually disappear over time. Half of hemangiomas disappear by age 5, and 90% (9 out of 10) are gone by age 9.


Treatment

Treatment of the hemangioma depends mostly upon the location and size of the lesion. It also depends on whether it is causing vision problems. Not all hemangiomas need treatment. Hemangiomas near the eye should be watched to make sure they do not cause vision problems and treated if they have the potential to cause vision problems.

If a hemangioma is causing vision problems, the most common treatment is to begin a medication called propranolol. Propranolol is a beta-blocker medication that is also given to heart patients. Research has shown it is safe and effective for treating vascular conditions such as a hemangioma as well. Sometimes the medication can be applied to the skin if the hemangioma is small and thin. Propranolol is taken by mouth most of the time. Patients should be carefully monitored when starting the medication. Coordination of care with other specialists is also when a child begins to use propranolol.

Other treatments for hemangiomas include laser treatment or surgery. A laser can sometimes decrease the size or lighten the color of a hemangioma. Surgery is less commonly performed in children.

Patients with hemangiomas that block the development of vision or cause distortion of the eye may need glasses or an eye patch over the good eye to strengthen the vision in the eye with the hemangioma. These patients should be evaluated and monitored by their eye doctor.