Strawberry Hemangioma

20 Aug

5 months

I had no idea what a strawberry hemangioma was until I had Mr. H. But evidently about 1 in 10 children have this type of birthmark, which is simply an overgrowth of blood vessels. Most of the time strawberries are located on the head and neck area, but they can occur anywhere. Interestingly, these marks are not seen right at birth but start to appear after about 1 month of age. They usually continue to grow for about a year and then recede and are completely gone before the beginning of kindergarten. Of course, this is not an exact science and there are all kinds of variations on this timeline.

7 months

Mr. H had a mark on his upper lip that started to appear when he was about a month old. At first I thought maybe it was a “hiccy” from sucking too hard while eating, but my pediatrician diagnosed it as a strawberry. She also referred me to a pediatric plastic surgeon since the strawberry was on his lip and if it got too big could interfere with nursing, eating, or speaking. It was very hard as a new mother to realize that my baby had an “imperfection”! It was especially difficult when I introduced my baby to new people…I felt as though everyone was wondering what this thing on his lip was and so I needed to explain it.

At the hospital for a treatment

A new procedure which is now used to stunt the growth of strawberries is called “Pulsed Dye Laser” or PDL. This is the same laser used in cosmetic procedures to reduce the appearance of spider veins. Mr. H had his first PDL at 3 months of age, and since then has had about 6 more treatments. The actual treatment only takes about 1 minute, but he has to go under general anesthesia for the treatment so that he will not move. This is very hard for a mother to endure! But I hope that in the end it will encourage the strawberry to heal more quickly and leave a less prominent mark on him permanently. The surgeon told me that we may need to continue giving Mr. H more treatments if it continues to grow…and there is also a possibility that he will have to excise some extra skin after the strawberry shrinks. But right now it is a wait-and-see situation.

First birthday!

Mr. H recently turned 1, and I feel that the treatments and/or the time has led to an improvement in his strawberry. It also took me about this long to realize that other people can see him without being distracted by this superficial mark. So for now I will stop worrying about it. But come kindergarten, I am sure I will be worried again because children can be so unkind!

For more information on hemangiomas and their treatment, here is a great resource: www.hemangiomatreatment.org

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