Strawberry birthmarks (also known as hemangiomas) are bright red skin spots named for its color, which forms a rubbery, bright red nodule of extra blood vessels that grow in or under the skin. Although called a birthmark, a hemangioma does not always only appear at birth (usually within a month). It can also manifest when a child is already several weeks old and commonly appears on the scalp, face, chest or back. Hemangiomas typically go through a period of rapid growth followed by more gradual fading and flattening.
At Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Birmingham, AL, we know that any mark on your baby may immediately cause worry even if they’re harmless. Here we explore what infantile hemangiomas are by addressing important questions any concerned parent in Birmingham, Alabama would ask and possible treatments for their removal.
6 Common Questions about Hemangiomas
What Are The Different Types Of Infantile Hemangiomas?
There are three main types of infantile hemangiomas:
- Superficial hemangiomas are cutaneous (“in-the-skin”) red bumps that appear on the surface of the skin.
- Deep hemangiomas are subcutaneous (“under the skin”) hemangiomas that tend to grow under the skin surface, causing bulges which often appear with a purple or blue tint.
- Combined hemangiomas are a mixture of both superficial and deep hemangiomas.
Who Gets Them?
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), approximately 4-5% of infants get hemangiomas. They are more common in caucasians, girls, twins and preterm babies.
What Causes Hemangiomas?
The causes of these vascular birthmarks, which vary in size, appearance and placement, still remain to be unknown. However, there are rare cases that show genetics play a role in its manifestation.
How Are Hemangiomas Diagnosed?
A physical exam is needed in order to make a proper diagnosis. Testing is also needed in order to ensure that the hemangiomas do not go deeper into other tissues and are not close to any major organ. Tests to determine how far the hemangioma goes under the skin and whether it affects any internal organs include a biopsy, a CT scan or an MRI scan.
What Are The Available Treatments for Infantile Hemangioma?
Fortunately, there are effective treatments today that can prevent any serious problems, especially if early intervention is done.
One systematic treatment involves the use of Propranolol –a beta-blocker medication used to treat high blood pressure. This oral medication has been shown to stop the growth of a hemangioma, as well as completely remove the hemangioma.
If the hemangioma may potentially cause serious problems, surgery may be recommended. If surgery is required, it is recommended to do it sooner to avoid it from growing or becoming painful.
- Laser Treatment
Laser treatments can reduce the appearance of hemangiomas without affecting the surrounding tissue. Laser treatments are usually used in tandem with either a propranolol treatment or surgical resection.
When Should A Hemangioma Be Treated?
Because infantile hemangiomas tend to change most quickly right after they appear and can leave behind permanent changes on the skin, it is important to identify and monitor them immediately. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the ideal “window of opportunity” for proper evaluation and treatment for hemangiomas is between 4-6 weeks old. Especially if the hemangiomas are potentially problematic, early intervention is best.
There are three main reasons why hemangiomas should be treated:
- Serious Skin Problems
The skin on a hemangioma can break down and may develop into an ulcer (open sore), which could result in infection, bleeding or scarring.
- Permanent Changes on the Skin
Even after a hemangioma has disappeared, changes in the color and texture of the skin can still be apparent. This can be a cause for major concern if the marks are found on the child’s face. Large bumps found on the nose or lips can cause distortion in growth and can alter the child’s facial features.
- Medical Issues
For serious cases, the development of hemangiomas may affect the body’s vital functions. For instance, marks near the eyes, nose or mouth can interfere with the child’s sight, hearing and breathing. A child’s ability to eat may be affected as well.
Hemangiomas are not always seen. They can also develop in organs such as the lungs, liver, brain and kidneys. And because hemangiomas grow and change, they are categorized as tumors, but are universally benign or non-cancerous. They also do not spread to other areas of the body and are not contagious.
While some hemangiomas will shrink on their own, certain types of hemangiomas may require treatment and will need a consultation to determine the best course of action. At Pediatric ENT Associates, our own Dr. Brian Kulbersh is the director of the Vascular Anomalies Treatment Group – an interdisciplinary program at Children’s of Alabama aimed at managing children with congenital vascular lesions. This group works closely with parents and their children to create a treatment plan for issues like hemangiomas.
Schedule a Consultation for Strawberry Birthmarks
If you notice any unusual birthmarks developing on your baby’s skin, contact Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Birmingham, Alabama. for an evaluation and treatment plan, as well as the best possible care for your child. Some hemangiomas are harmless and may go away on their own. But remember, prompt evaluation along with proper treatment and monitoring can help ensure that hemangiomas will have the least impact possible on your child. You can make an appointment by calling us at (205) 315-5633 today.