A hemangioma is a birthmark that forms from a buildup of blood vessels just under the skin. It is often referred to as the “strawberry mark” because of its reddish color and texture.
Hemangiomas can be superficial or deep. A superficial hemangioma is simply a raised red area on the skin’s surface, while a deep hemangioma involves swollen blood vessels deeper in the skin that can cause the skin to have a bluish hue.
Hemangiomas can vary in size and can develop anywhere in the body. They are very common, affecting around 5% of babies shortly after birth.
Can hemangiomas go away on their own?
Hemangiomas tend to enlarge rapidly during the first six months, but most will shrink progressively. They tend to disappear by the age of seven.
Because of this, treatment is not usually recommended for hemangiomas, but it might be considered if the hemangioma is from:
- extremely fast development
- Growth near the eye begins to interfere with vision.
- Growth near the nose causes breathing difficulties.
- Growth near the mouth makes it difficult to eat
- Cause the surrounding skin to become misshapen or stretch
- Formation of an ulcer
What causes hemangiomas?
It’s not clear what causes hemangiomas, but they could result from placental tissue in early pregnancy. Having another relative with a hemangioma does not increase a child’s chance of developing one.
How is a hemangioma treated?
- If the hemangioma has an ulcer, your doctor will likely recommend medication to relieve pain and offer advice on washing and bandaging the area to prevent infection. If it has become infected, antibiotics may be necessary.
- If the hemangioma is near the eye, lips, or diaper area, it can usually be treated with a medication called propranolol, which should cause the birthmark to shrink. Steroids or vincristine are sometimes used as alternatives when propranolol doesn’t work.
- Laser treatment is generally recommended when the birthmark has stopped shrinking or is located in the airway and is causing breathing difficulties. It can also be an effective treatment to reduce the redness of the birthmark.
Lastly, plastic surgery may be helpful if the skin around the birthmark is stretched or misshapen and you want to improve its appearance.
What type of specialist treats hemangioma?
There are a variety of specialists who can be involved in the treatment of hemangioma, depending on where the birthmark is. For example, a dermatologist can perform laser treatment, while a plastic surgeon performs skin enhancement surgery.
If the laser treatment involves working on the airways, the treatment might involve a pulmonologist or thoracic surgeon. Lastly, if the hemangioma is affecting the eye, it may require the attention of an ophthalmologist.