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Can hemangioma birthmarks be removed?
Q: One of my 3-month-old twins was born with a strawberry hemangioma on her face. Since birth, it has grown so much in both area and volume. It just kills me when people ask, "What is that on her face?" especially since her twin sister doesn't have any birthmarks. Two of my older children were also born with them, but both have gotten smaller and almost faded away. Is there any new procedure to treat or remove this birthmark?
A: Eliana, although birthmarks are very common, it still can very upsetting when people draw attention to them. A strawberry hemangioma is a “vascular” birthmark created by an unusual collection of blood vessels in the skin. It is called “strawberry” because it appears bright red and slightly raised. Hemangiomas can arise anywhere on the face or body. Usually, children with hemangiomas have only one, but rarely they can have multiple hemangiomas, including on internal organs.

Hemangiomas are usually not seen at birth, but appear within the first few weeks of life. They tend to grow fastest during the first six months. Most remain smaller than 2 to 3 inches in diameter, but some may grow larger. Usually they stop growing after a year and slowly begin to fade in color and shrink in size. By age 5, half of hemangiomas are flat; and by age 9, 90 percent are flat. Hemangiomas may disappear completely or leave a faint mark.

Be sure to talk with your pediatrician about your daughter’s hemangioma and ask whether a referral to a dermatologist would be helpful. Since most hemangiomas go away on their own, over time—just as your older children’s hemangiomas did—the doctor might recommend just waiting and watching it.

However, the doctor might recommend treatment if the hemangioma is located close to the eyes, nose or mouth; if it grows suddenly, or if it develops bleeding or infection. In this case, treatment might include steroids (by injections or by mouth), laser treatment or surgery. New treatments are always being developed, so be sure to ask your doctor about them.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician