What is an infantile hemangioma?
An infantile hemangioma is a common type of birthmark. Often called a "strawberry mark", they are most commonly found on infants and usually appear by 6 months of age. They often grow rapidly in the first year of life, have a "resting" phase, then typically shrink away over a few years in early childhood.
What if an infantile hemangioma is near the eye?
Infantile hemangiomas on or around the eye/eyelid can be damaging to vision and must be monitored closely and treated by a pediatric ophthalmogist. As the hemangioma grows, it can affect the vision by putting pressure on the eye and causing astigmatism. It can also distort the eyelids to the point of blocking vision. In some cases where the hemangioma is larger and extends back into the eye socket, it may even damage the eye by pushing it out of location. In extreme cases, the hemagioma can lead to blindness by any of these mechanisms.
How are infantile hemangiomas treated?
Whether to treat a hemangioma or not is determined by the age of the patient, the size of the hemangioma, how fast it is growing, and the location.
Historically, treatment has consisted of options including surgical removal, laser treatments, and steroid medications. These treatments all had limited success and had significant adverse effects. The newest and perhaps most promising treatment for infantile hemangioma is the use of beta blocker medications, such as propranolol taken orally or sometimes topical timolol eye drops. There are still some potential side effects for beta blockers in infants and therefore your pediatrician and pediatric ophthalmologist will work closely together to monitor for safety during treatment.