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The bright red “strawberry patch” birthmark known as infantile hemangioma occurs in about 4-5% of infants. There are no known infantile hemangioma causes, though there is some evidence that genetics can affect that percentage.
Infantile hemangiomas are benign vascular tumors. This means that they are created by blood vessels that are growing out of control but are not cancerous.
Continue reading to learn more about infantile hemangioma, its different types, and possible treatments.
Different Types of Infantile Hemangioma
When the blood vessels begin to grow out of control they can create three different infantile hemangioma types: superficial, deep, and mixed.
Superficial hemangiomas are the most recognized as they are on the surface of the skin while deep hemangiomas grow underneath the skin. The mixed type of hemangiomas are just as described, a mix of superficial and deep, growing both under and on the surface of the skin.
Larger hemangiomas can be an indication of PHACE syndrome. Each letter in PHACE stands for a different condition affecting the hemangioma:
- P–Posterior fossa malformation (affects that specific part of the brain)
- A–Abnormal arteries in the brain or heart
- C–Coarctation of the aorta (part of the aorta is too narrow for blood to pass through)
- E–Eye problems.
Understanding how hemangiomas grow can help you identify which type you are dealing with.
Growth From Infancy Into Young Childhood
Infantile hemangioma is often not present when an infant is born. It will begin to present itself within the first few weeks of a child’s life and continue to grow from there.
An infantile hemangioma tumor grows quickly in the first 5 months, usually being at about 80% of its final size by about three months old, continuing to grow until the child is around one year old.
At this point, it will most often stop growing and begin to shrink. As they flatten and appear less red they enter a phase called involution, during which the hemangioma will continue to fade and shrink. By the time the child is 3.5 to 4 years old, the tumors will have mostly shrunk, though they sometimes leave scars or extra blood vessels behind.
Infantile hemangioma treatment will depend on the size of the hemangioma and where it has grown. Many only require being monitored and will grow and shrink on their own without interference. Your doctors will know what actions to take to make sure your child is comfortable and well taken care of.
Hemangiomas that are larger or in areas of concern are sometimes treated with beta-blockers. Two are most common: propranolol treatments taken orally to help shrink the tumor such as those found at hemangeol.com and timolol drops applied topically.
In rare cases, doctors will consider surgery, but hemangiomas are much better understood than they used to be and surgery is uncommon.
More Than a Birthmark
Knowing more about infantile hemangioma makes it clear that these tumors are more than a birthmark. These birthmarks need to be monitored by medical professionals, if only for your peace of mind, but are most often easily managed and fade over time.
Do you have other questions? Read other articles on our site to find those answers!