Birthmarks (haemangioma) 

Haemangiomas are vascular birthmarks caused by abnormal blood vessels in or under the skin. Find out how to deal with birthmarks and what to do if they cause complications, such as problems with eyesight or breathing.

Learn more about birthmarks

Transcript of Birthmarks (haemangioma)

An haemangioma is what is known as a strawberry birthmark.

It is generally not present at birth.

It appears about the first week, between a week and a month,

and then very gradually, it gets bigger in size.

It's basically a vascular tumour.

But it is a benign tumour. It's not malignant.

Ollie was about six weeks old

when we first discovered this little lump in the side of his neck.

Obviously, we were concerned.

A lump. You immediately think tumour or something like that.

Haemangiomas do resolve

as long as they're the typical capillary haemangiomas.

What we normally say is that it's 50 per cent in five years,

so if you do have a very big one,

sometimes, it can take a little bit longer.

You are talking about nine or ten by the time it's completely resolved,

although, as a rule, you wouldn't expect to see too much after five.

(Natalie) We sent photos to Great Ormond Street.

We went up had an MRI scan.

That's when they told us and when we first heard the word haemangioma.

Haemangiomas can be absolutely anywhere on the body

and actually internally as well.

We don't get many inside, but certainly, if there are more than two or three,

there's a chance you could get them in the liver.

We would to an ultrasound to check that.

They do go exactly the same way as on the skin, if not quicker.

The concern we had was not only the external factors of it growing outwards,

but that Great Ormond Street were telling us

it was actually growing inwards as well.

So the major concern was it was growing

and it could be imposing upon the actual breathing tube.

If haemangiomas were causing a functional problem,

for example vision on the eye or if they're round the nose, breathing,

sometimes around the mouth, you can have problems with feeding,

then you have to do something about it.

We've been using a new drug called propranolol.

It's actually a very old drug but for a very new reason.

This actually helps to shrink these haemangiomas much, much quicker.

(Natalie) When we went on to propranolol, it was a really quick...

(Euros) Within weeks there was a significant change.

(Natalie) You could notice the difference.

(Euros) The actual texture of it was getting much softer.

He's obviously dealt with it in the right way

and the drug has been very effective.

Haemangiomas are not painful unless they ulcerate.

If they ulcerate, they can be absolute agony.

It is very important that they get the right sort of treatment

and that includes dressings and painkillers.

I don't think at any time - I don't think we've highlighted this -

he was in any discomfort irrespective of whatever size the lump has been

from the time he was diagnosed to this period.

Most of the time, there are no problems at all with the skin.

Very occasionally, you do get a little bit of a fatty component in them

and you get a little bit of skin left,

in which case, the surgeons can tidy it up or even a laser can help.

Whilst the haemangioma has disappeared,

the skin is still sagging around the neck.

But he's so young and the skin's so pliable,

that they're pretty confident as he grows, it'll just grow out.

If there is any uncertainty at all about the diagnosis of haemangioma,

then we can certainly do an ultrasound. That will show whether it's vascular.

Obviously, if we're still unsure,

then we can get a biopsy done just to be on the safe side.

(Natalie) The recovery rate from our perspective was just immense.

It was very quick and soon we began our normal life with our little toddler

as quickly as we could.

If you notice anything unusual and you are concerned,

then obviously your GP would be your first port of call

just to get it checked out.

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