Birthmarks serve as markers of our individualities. Birthmarks, by virtue of their locations, size or color, can make an individual self conscious. At the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, the appearance of birthmarks can be improved in order to reduce the impact they have on your daily life. Schedule a birthmark removal consultation with our cosmetic dermatologists today.
What Are Birthmarks?
By definition, birthmarks are present on the skin at birth and generally are categorized as being vascular (containing blood vessels, generally red or pink) or pigmented (containing melanin, generally brown/tan).
Hemangiomas (or “strawberries”) and port-wine stains are the most common red birthmarks. Both are caused by abnormal development of blood vessels. How and why they occur is still not completely understood. They are not linked to exposure to chemicals or toxins, nor are they related to trauma in the womb or birth accidents. Most vascular birthmarks occur independently. Rarely other developmental malformations can be seen in association with them.
Hemangiomas affect one in every ten infants. The hallmark of a hemangioma is its rapid growth during early life. It may appear as a small red dot that quickly grows in size and thickness. The good news is that over the first 5 years of life, 50% of hemangiomas go away on their own. Some hemangiomas may persist (particularly those that grow very large) and often require laser skin treatment and other medical intervention.
Port-wine stains are less common than hemangiomas. They affect three to five out of every 1,000 children born in North America. In up to 90% of all cases, they are located on the face or neck. They usually appear as pale pink skin patches that grow with the child, becoming progressively darker (red or purple) and become thicker over time. They never go away without treatment.
The excess blood vessels that make up hemangiomas and port wine stains do not serve any useful purpose, so there is no medical reason not to get rid of them. Vascular-specific lasers are safe and effective in treating hemangiomas and port wine stains in affected individuals of all ages, including infants.
Pigmented (Brown) Birthmarks
Some brown (or pigmented spots) are limited to the outer layer of the skin (epidermis), whereas others are contained more deeply in the skin, (dermis), the skin’s middle layer. The most common pigmented birthmarks are cafè-au-lait spots and pigmented nevi (moles).
Cafè-au-lait spots appear as pale brown patches of various sizes in 10% of the population, making them the second most common type of birthmark, after hemangiomas. They do not go away without treatment.
Most nevi are darker in color than freckles or cafè-au-lait spots. Some nevi consist of multiple small dark, bluish-gray spots that coalesce to form a patch. A pigmented birthmark, known as the nevus of Ota, is often located on the face and accompanied by discoloration of the conjunctiva (white) of the eye. Many pigmented birthmarks can be successfully treated with pigment-specific lasers.
If you would like to discuss possible treatment for your pigmented birthmark, schedule a consultation at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery today.