What is a Birthmark?
Birthmarks are extremely common and usually harmless skin abnormalities present when a baby is born. It can be caused by a variety of different issues, including the grouping of blood vessels or an excess of pigmentation.
Types of Birth Marks
Birthmarks are classified into two main types Vascular and Pigmented.
This type of birthmark occurs when an area of skin has excess blood vessels that are irregular and bunched-up causing red patches of skin that do not grow normally. Some of the common vascular birthmarks are:
- Port-wine stains: have the color of red wine and doesn’t disappear without treatment. They usually get bigger as a child grows.
- Hemangiomasthey: are round, dark red, and may resemble a fruit. Some hemangiomas are blue or purple and cause the skin to bulge.
- Salmon patches: are flat, pink or red patches that usually appear on the face or neck.
Pigmented birthmarks occur when an area of skin contains an excess of skin pigment, typically resulting in a patch of brownish skin. Some of the common pigmented birthmarks are:
- Moles are round spots – raised or smooth – that come in varying shades of brown, pink, or black.
- Café-au-lait spots: are the colour of coffee with milk.
- Mongolian spots: Dark-skinned people are more likely to have these marks, which appear as grayish or bluish spots or smudges, on the back or bottom.
Vascular birthmarks can be treated except for macular stains, which usually fade away on their own. Doctors might recommend the following treatment options:
- Lasers are the treatment of choice for port-wine stains and most of them lighten after several treatments with a "pulsed-dye" laser. However, some might return and would need re-treatment.
Laser treatment usually starts early usually in infancy, when the stain and the blood vessels are smaller. The marks present on the head and neck usually respond well to laser treatment.
Lasers can also be used to remove Café-au-lait spots but they usually return.
- A Port-wine stain can also be masked using special opaque makeup.
- Moles particularly large or giant congenital nevi sometimes are surgically removed, though larger ones may be more difficult to remove.
- Port-wine stains and certain hemangiomas are usually left alone, as they typically shrink back into themselves by age 10. However, doctors might prescribe medication to treat larger or more serious hemangiomas.
- Plastic surgery is a viable alternative recommended by pediatricians, in cases in which the hemangioma has deformed or stretched the skin. This can help rebuild the affected patch of skin.