Red, black, blue, purple, pink, or white—birthmarks can come in many colors, sizes, and shapes. One type is the strawberry nevus of the skin, a fancy name for a red birthmark. This harmless birthmark typically fades by the time a child reaches age 9. If it does not, removal options are available to minimize the birthmark’s appearance.
A strawberry nevus, or hemangioma, is named for its color. This red tinge to your skin comes from a collection of blood vessels close to your skin’s surface. While the hemangioma can be anywhere, the most common locations are the face, scalp, back, and chest. If you look closely at the area, you may see small blood vessels closely packed together.
Though it’s called a birthmark, a strawberry nevus does not always appear at birth. The mark can appear when your child is several weeks old. It may grow quickly and then gradually fade.
Strawberry nevus of the skin can resemble a number of other types of red birthmarks. A strawberry nevus is even with your child’s skin, while a cavernous hemangioma is typically sunken into the skin. A port-wine stain—a red or purple birthmark—differs from a strawberry nevus because port-wine stains typically occur on the face and are permanent.
Physicians do not know the cause of strawberry nevus. According to What to Expect, one in 10 babies are born with the marking. Most develop while your baby is in the uterus, when small veins and capillaries collect under the skin, creating a red patch.
A strawberry nevus is rarely harmful, but it can affect a child’s self-esteem if the mark is in a highly visible place and does not fade as the child ages. Also, some strawberry nevi can leave behind a gray or white scar as they fade, leaving the area noticeably different from the surrounding skin.
In the severest cases, a large hemangioma can be life threatening. A large nevus pulls blood platelets in from your bloodstream, which can lead to heart failure. A physician can evaluate the size of the marking and perform tests to determine its depth, if necessary.
Physicians diagnose most strawberry marks by physical examination. In some instances, your child’s physician may recommend testing to ensure that the strawberry mark does not go deep into the skin. If your doctor suspects that the strawberry mark is deep, a cavernous hemangioma, or close to a major organ, he or she may need to remove it.
Tests to determine the birth mark’s depth may include a:
- biopsy, or tissue removal
- computed tomography (CT) scan
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
Because most strawberry marks are not harmful and will fade with time, treatment is not necessarily recommended. However, if the mark is in a very visible area, such as the face, it can be a source of anxiety for a child. You can first try pressing on and kneading the mark to fade it more quickly.
If this doesn’t work, your physician can use steroid injections, laser removal, or cryotherapy—using liquid nitrogen to freeze the tissue—to fade the abnormal areas of skin. However, these procedures are not without their side effects. Side effects can include scarring and pain as the removed tissue heals.
In severe cases, a plastic surgeon may be able to remove the entire red patch of skin. This is typically recommended only when the birthmark extends deep into the skin.