My experience with strawberry birthmark was rather unexpected. One evening I visited my colleague Miriam at her apartment. She was by then lactating her newborn who was only some few weeks old. On that day, my friend seemed agitated and provoked. I was deeply concerned about her situation and therefore bothered her about the matter. It was all about her newborn who developed a soft, raised red mark on the head, a strawberry birthmark.
Do you want to learn about the meaning of these marks, causes, effects and their removal and treatment? Well, this is a natural phenomenon common to newborns. This article is going to provide you with the knowledge and all information about these red marks hence easing your duty as a parent.
Strawberry birthmarks also are known as strawberry haemangioma are some irregular collection of microscopic blood vessels that form a lump under the skin which is not harmful. According to beautyzion.com, the accumulation of irregular blood vessels on the skin is what results in the formation of a red lesion. They are often called “strawberry marks” since they look like the surface of a strawberry. They usually begin as a minute red spot on the skin, which then increases in size promptly during the first few weeks of birth.
Usually, when the baby is one year old, the lumps will have stopped growing and began to shrink. By the time your baby will start going to school, the mark would have disappeared. Actually, these marks do not require treatment because they always shrink and vanish of their own. Conversely, treatments can be practical to those birthmarks that impede your baby’s ability to see feed or breathe properly. Here are two major known types of haemangioma depending on the closeness of the blood vessels to skin surface:
- Superficial haemangiomas-these are raised, red areas of a skin. They usually feel warm because the blood vessels are very close to the surface. They sometimes appear as a small area of pale skin where red spots advance.
- Deep haemangiomas-they are normally blue in color due to blood vessels being deeper in the skin. They are sometimes not seen in the first few weeks since they will only show a lump as the haemangioma grows.
How common is strawberry haemangioma?
They are usually more common in girls, low birth weight babies premature babies and in twin (multiple births). Most of the strawberry haemangioma commonly appear within first few weeks and then grow rapidly for 5-12 months. This period is known as a proliferative phase. They begin the process of shrinking (involuting phase), this can take one to eight years.
How are they diagnosed?
In most cases, you will find the physician diagnosing strawberry marks by physical examination but in some situations, your child`s physician may recommend testing to ensure that the strawberry mark does not get deeper into the skin. When the doctor suspects that your child`s strawberry birthmark is deep or close to a major organ that can lead to a potential risk to the child`s health, actually the doctor may demand to remove it.
Here are some of the tests to determine the depth of the strawberry mark:
- computed tomography (CT) scan
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- biopsy, or tissue removal
Where do they occur?
It is good to note the haemangioma can occur anyplace in the body but usually, more than 50% of them occur in the head and neck area, about 30% and 20% occur in the trunk and the arms respectively.
They can also occur on the internal organs. This is more common in a baby that has numerous haemangiomas. The liver is mostly affected but the airway, brain, and heart are occasionally affected.
The Haemangioma PHACE syndrome
This is usually an amalgamation of large haemangioma (that normally occur on the face or the neck) and other more abnormalities. PHACE is an abbreviation of the medicinal names for the parts of the body that are affected by haemangioma. So read here to understand what PHACE stands for:
P – Posterior fossa abnormalities and other structural brain abnormalities
H – Haemangioma(s) of the cervical facial region
A – Arterial cerebrovascular anomalies
C – Cardiac defects, aortic coarctation, and other aortic abnormalities
E – Eye anomalies
It is believed that PHACE syndrome is more common in girls than boys. It is uncommon but sometimes it can emerge.
Superstitions and myths
Different communities have got their own meaning of various birthmarks depending on the birthmark location, color, shape or past lives. There are also spiritual meanings of different birthmarks.
To be specific on strawberry birthmarks, they have meaning depending on where they are located. Strawberry marks close to the mouth signifies that the person will have a lot of riches, joy, and achievement in life. In case they appear on the head, then this will show that the individual will be attractive to the opposite gender and sometimes may have many romantic affairs. When they occur on the chin, this means that the individual will be very victorious.
All these remains myths and superstitions of various communities around the world-they hold no water and therefore should not be taken seriously. So in case you are having any birthmark, you should not worry about it so much.
Strawberry Birthmark found on the head (scalp) or face
Like we have said before, strawberry birthmark can occur anywhere in the body but its occurrence in the scalp or face is somewhat more bothering.
Strawberry mark on the scalp
Normally, these marks on the scalp tend to be harmless and painless. They are usually buried by the existence of hair on the head. In some cases where the head hair is cut short, the presence of a strawberry mark on the scalp can bother a child or even the parent.
Strawberry birthmark on the face
Another circumstance is when the mark is found on the face-it can occur on any part of the face e.g. on the forehead, near the eye or lips. Under this section, we are going to discuss these haemangiomas on the lips and near the eye.
Before we continue, it is significant to understand that growing children tend to be more conscious of how they look like. Therefore the occurrence of strawberry mark on the face may lower the self-esteem of the child specifically when they are being baited with their age mates in schools, church or at home.
a. Haemangioma on the lips
Normally, haemangioma found on the lips habitually become ulcerated. The child may sometimes experience some difficulties during eating because ulcers are so painful. So for such cases, offering your child some painkilling medication can be of great significance. It is also recommended to apply Vaseline around your nipple, in case you are still breastfeeding. Doing so will help to hasten the relief of friction and make the feeding less painful.
Because of their location, it is impossible to dress up ulcerated lips. The healing process of such situation may take longer period but using beta-blockers may speed up the healing process.
b. Haemangioma near the eye
This is a very critical condition because haemangiomas occurring near the eye can potentially lead to long-term effects on the child`s vision-they can sometimes press on the eyeball making it to be insignificantly reshaped, this will hence interfere with the focusing of images on the retina, actually through this, the message sent to the brain through the eye will be transformed.
When haemangioma finds its way to the child`s visual field, a condition called amblyopia (lazy eye) may develop. The brain will, therefore, tend to filter out the image from the lazy eye and instead relying on the image produced on the retina from the good eye (unaffected eye). Over some period of time, the affected eye or the lazy eye will lose accurate vision.
This phenomenon can be treated by forcing the brain to use the lazy eye instead of depending on the unaffected eye.
Another important section we have to understand is that the occurrence of haemangiomas on the jaws, chins or neck can sometimes be connected to breathing problems. The sign of this situation is stridor and rasping while breathing.
The following are some of the major complication/effects that can be due to the presence of strawberry birthmark:
- Impairment of vision or bodily functions
- Scarring or difficulties after surgery to remove them
- Passionate distress because of appearance
- Discomfort or bleeding from strawberry birthmarks (this is very rare)
- Inference with the breathing process
- Difficulties during feeding
Strawberry haemangiomas usually are known to be affecting the surface of the child`s skin. But they are the same type of skin growth that is usually referred to as cherry haemangiomas when they affect the adults. You should note that everyone is equally vulnerable to all kind of haemangiomas but some studies have shown that they are more common in people with average complications.
Usually, the haemangiomas that occur in adults are smaller than those affecting the children. However, they can appear very large when they grow in a cluster. This situation can also occur in children but it is more common in adults.
Scientists have not well found out the possible cause of these skin growths but for the children, they can be linked to the development of proteins in the womb. In adults, some theories also connect minor gene abnormalities with exposure to some chemical compounds. There are also evidence showing that haemangiomas are more likely to re-occur in families.
It should be clear that the presence of cherry haemangioma is not connected to cancer-cancerous cells don’t normally develop in such growths. Sometimes they can bleed especially when irritated by friction. These growths in adults can be removed by injection with type hormonal treatment called corticosteroids.
Removal and treatment
Normally, most strawberry birthmarks are not accompanied by pain and they can be left to disappear of their own. Such cases may not require any treatment.
However, but there are some circumstances where some strawberry haemangioma can lead to some complications such as interfering with certain body functions (e.g. interfering with child`s vision), causing open sore and some can even grow big hence interfering with the physical appearance of a child.
So in such circumstances, strawberry birthmark removal can be ideal. Some of the highly recommended treatment for this kind of birthmark is beta-blockers such as timolol and propranolol. Again laser treatment can also be employed for the removal of strawberry birthmarks. Surgical procedures can as well be adopted but only where the doctor recommend that surgical procedures are ideal. Where the surrounding skin or tissue is distorted after the haemangioma has disappeared, plastic surgery can help.
Sometimes steroids can also be used to stop or slow the haemangioma growth. But this kind of treatment is somewhat outdated, propranolol is currently used instead.
Another effective treatment is the application of bleomycin injection into the haemangioma area. The response rate is about 80%. Freezing or what is known as cryotherapy is also another possible treatment for this case.
Above all, we should understand that all kinds of treatment have got their benefits and side effects as in, the effectiveness and post-treatment effects will vary. So it is, therefore, advisable to consult your doctor to get most suitable treatment for your infant or yourself.