A haemangioma is a collection of small blood vessels that form a lump under the skin. They are sometimes called ‘strawberry marks’ because the surface of a haemangioma may look a bit like the surface of a strawberry.
Superficial haemangiomas are usually a raised, bright red area of skin, which feels quite warm because the abnormal blood vessels are close to the surface. A superficial haemangioma may appear initially as a small area of pale skin on which a red spot develops.
Deep haemangiomas may appear bluish in colour because the abnormal blood vessels are deeper in the skin. Sometimes they are not noticeable for the first few weeks, only appearing as a lump as the haemangioma grows. This is particularly true if the surface of the skin is not affected.
Haemangiomas are not usually present at birth but develop a few days or weeks later. They often grow rapidly in the first three months. It is unusual for haemangiomas to grow after six to 10 months of age, when most haemangiomas tend to have a ‘rest period’ and then begin to shrink.
As the blood vessels in a haemangioma are so near the surface of the skin, they can bleed if they are scratched. It is important to keep nails cut short and buffed smooth, so that they don’t catch the surface of the haemangioma.
If the haemangioma starts to bleed, apply pressure over it with a clean handkerchief, cloth or tissue for at least five minutes. If blood soaks through the handkerchief, cloth or tissue, put another one on top and keep up the pressure. Do not take it off to have a look as this could start the bleeding again.
If the bleeding continues, even after pressing down on the haemangioma for five minutes, we recommend people go to their nearest NHS Walk-In Centre or Accident and Emergency department
A beta blocker called Propranolol may be needed when the haemangioma is near the eye, lips, or nappy area. Treatment may need to continue for 18 months or longer but results are promising.