What are strawberry marks?
Strawberry marks affect 2% or more of babies. They are raised, soft red lumps on the skin, usually the size of a 50p piece, and look like a strawberry.
They are also called capillary haemangioma or cavernous haemangioma if they are deeper in the skin or appear blue in colour. The blood vessels in these birthmarks are increased in size and number.
They are not a sign of ill-health and they are not linked to cancer.
They can occur anywhere on the skin but are more important when they affect the face or the nappy area. These birthmarks are often not obvious at birth, but grow in the first month of life. In rare cases they grow quite large and may bleed or become infected or ulcerated.
Why do they develop?
Strawberry marks are more common in premature babies. They seem to arise from 'left over' groups of cells in the babys skin. Many myths have developed about them, but no parent should feel responsible for these blemishes.
How are they treated?
Treatment is usually unnecessary as most strawberry marks will shrink and fade on their own.
Large strawberry marks in certain places, for instance near the eye, may require treatment to avoid affecting vision in that eye.
Injections may shrink the blood vessels. Surgery is considered in rare cases to reduce the size of the birthmark. Laser treatment can be used to speed up healing of ulcerated birthmarks and to stop bleeding but is not used routinely for these birthmarks.
Do they disappear?
The birthmark may continue to grow for the first 36 months and sometimes for longer, but then they slowly shrink.
After the age of six months, the strawberry marks usually begin to shrink and fade. Approximately 50% will disappear by the time the child is five years old and more than 90% disappear by age nine.
Shrinkage is not influenced by position, size or the number of birthmarks.
Sometimes the skin over the birthmarks remains rather thinned or baggy but plastic surgery can improve the appearance if this is a problem.
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