The strawberry birthmark is a type of hemangioma. It's a benign tumor that's formed when cells lining the capillaries, also known as vascular tissue, accumulate excessively. It gets its name because of its deep red color, which is similar to that of a ripe strawberry. This birthmark may be present at birth, but it can also appear anytime during the first year of a child's life.
This birthmark usually presents on one of four areas of the body:
- The face
- The scalp
- The neck
- The chest
In most cases, it is small - less than the size of a quarter. It can be either flat or raised off of the skin and is soft and smooth in texture. A pediatrician can identify a strawberry birthmark simply by looking at the child. These marks are fairly distinctive. If there is any doubt, the doctor can take a blood test.
Only a small percentage of babies are born with or develop a strawberry birthmark. The numbers stand between three and five percent. A baby is more likely to be born with this type of birthmark if it is female, if it is born prematurely and if it Caucasian.
Since it's impossible to change any of these circumstances, and none of them are even close to a 100 percent cause, there is nothing to do to try to prevent a strawberry birthmark from occurring. It has nothing to do with the activities of the mother either before or during pregnancy, even though there are rumors to the contrary.
Very few children with strawberry birthmarks require any kind of medical treatment. A doctor may recommend oral medication or laser treatment for an infant with a birthmark that obstructs his or her mouth, nose, eyes or ears. Birthmarks in these areas can affect the child's quality of life by making it difficult for him or her to use these organs.
If the birthmark does not negatively affect the child, no treatment is necessary. It's not recommended to make a child undergo laser surgery for cosmetic reason in this particular case.
The birthmark almost always regresses without any intervention. It may grow larger for a couple of months, but it will then appear to get lighter and smaller, receding into the skin. When it is in this transitional phase it may appear to be breaking up or turn grayish in appearance.
Very few children still have this birthmark once they have reached age nine, and most lose them before age seven. In its place they will have normal looking skin. If a child still has this birthmark after age 10, it may be time to get a skin biopsy done to make sure there is no underlying condition.
A lot of parents worry when they hear that this birthmark is a type of tumor. Their doctors should reassure them that this does not mean the birthmark is cancerous or that having one increases the risk of cancer in the future. In fact, there are no health risks associated with a child having this birthmark.
The birthmark should not cause a child any pain, even if he or she scratches or touches it. In rare cases the birthmark can bleed. The bleeding can be stopped quickly by applying pressure, just as a person would to any cut or scrape. Parents who have concerns over bleeding should consult their child's pediatrician.