Most birthmarks are harmless, and can even be cute and charming—a little quirk that will remain throughout a person’s life. However, there are some varieties of birthmarks that can be aggressive, progressive, and even disfiguring over time. These birth marks are known as hemangiomas, “port wine stains”, “strawberry marks”, and other nicknames, depending on the type of mark. All of these birthmarks are vascular in appearance, and their behavior has a lot of similarities to one another. Because they can have consequences to a child’s health and self-esteem, many parents choose to seek treatment early in life. But when is treatment appropriate?

When and Why do They Appear?

While technically known as a type of birthmark, vascular marks are not typically present from birth. Most vascular birthmarks begin to form between four and six weeks of age. Hemangiomas range in size from very small to quite large, and will often grow and expand, in growth patterns that are difficult to predict. During the period of growth, the lesions often puff out and deepen in color.

Hemangiomas are caused by abnormally dense groups of blood vessels beneath the skin, and it is still not entirely clear as to what causes them, though they are most common in Caucasian children and premature babies. Color of the marks can vary, but they tend to be bright red or purple in color. Hemangiomas are typically not physically dangerous, but can be a contributing factor in bullying and low self-esteem in children, and can get large and severe enough to qualify as disfiguring.

Will They Go Away?

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to predict the behavior of hemangiomas in children. Many marks do go through an extended period of shrinkage between the ages of one and five years, and some will even fade entirely over time. Others, however, persist past the age of five and can pose a threat to social development.

Methods of Treatment

The most common methods for treating hemangiomas include laser treatment and steroids. Only a surgeon with extensive experience in treating hemangiomas will be able to assess the treatment that is best in a given case. The surgeon must also be sensitive to the needs of children and their parents, as treating young patients requires patience and gentle procedures.

When Should You Seek Treatment For Your Child?

It is best to have your child’s vascular mark monitored throughout development, but if the mark is still significant after the age of five, then it might be time to consider treatment. Every family is different, but many marks will not continue to shrink after this period, and it can be beneficial to get treatment options before a child starts school.

Talk to an Expert

If you’re concerned about your child’s birthmarks, then it’s best to speak with an experienced facial plastic surgeon about your options. Dr. Rami K. Batniji is one of only a few surgeons in the Newport Beach area specializing only in facial procedures, and has extensive experience in treating facial hemangiomas in children. For more information, and to schedule a consultation with Dr. Batniji, call Batniji Facial Plastic Surgery in Newport Beach (949-650-8882) or Beverly Hills (310-467-2180), CA today.