Birth Marks

Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai, India
First Created: 01/02/2007  Last Updated: 08/01/2015

Patient Education

What are birthmarks?

Birthmarks are marks over the skin that are present since birth.

What are the types of birthmarks?

There are 2 types of birthmarks: pigmented birthmarks and vascular birthmarks.

What are pigmented birthmarks?

Pigmented birthmarks occur due to the overgrowth of cells that cause pigment in the skin. The common pigmented birthmarks are cafe-au-lait spots, Mongolian spots, and moles.

Cafe-au-lait spots: They look like coffee with milk color and hence the name in French. In fair individuals, they look light brown whereas in dark-skinned people they appear dark brown in color. They can be anywhere on the body but may appear later in life too. They are usually harmless, however, if there are many café au lait spots then one must rule out associated brain conditions such as Neurofibromatosis or tuberous sclerosis.

Mongolian Spots: They are bluish-gray patches often found on the lower back or buttocks. They usually fade away with time.

Mongolian Spots

Moles: Moles are also termed as nevi. Moles are usually tan or brown colored, flat or raised, and may have hair growing out of it. Most people get moles at some point in life which then lasts a lifetime. Large nevi that are present since birth are more likely to develop into skin cancer later in life and thus any mole that starts bleeding or increases in size and or causes pain would warrant a consult with the dermatologist (skin specialist).

What are vascular birthmarks?

There are certain birthmarks that are present due to blood vessel abnormality. Some of them such as strawberry hemangiomas fade away with time whereas some of them such as a Portwine stain may become larger over a period of time.

Strawberry hemangioma: They are enlarged blood vessels that appear as reddish nodules over the skin which grow rapidly after birth but often go away with time. The birthmark usually resolves by 5-6 years of age and does not require treatment. Some hemangiomas may occur near the eyes, mouth, some may get infected and bleed and need to be treated early. Treatment in such cases consists of laser therapy.

Strawberry hemangioma

Portwine Stain: This appears as a salmon pink patch at birth, which steadily becomes darker and larger over a period of time. This is also due to blood vessel abnormality. In mid-adulthood it may cause cosmetic disfigurement and if too large may lead to bleeding. Treatment consists of laser treatment.

Spider nevi: Spider nevi are also enlarged blood vessels that contain a central large blood vessel with tiny vessels radiating from the center. They resemble small mosquito bites. They usually do not cause problems and treatment is required only for cosmetic reasons.

What is the laser treatment for such birthmarks?

Flash lamp dye laser is used to treat such vascular birthmarks. It treats the abnormal blood vessel without affecting the surrounding tissue leading to termination of lesion leaving the skin pigment intact with minimal scarring.

Treatment would vary from patient to patient depending on the type of birthmark, size of the affected area, the color of skin, and the depth of the abnormal vessels beneath the skin.

Is laser treatment safe in children?

Yes, it can even be used in infants who are a few weeks old.

Birth Marks Birth Marks 2015-08-01
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