Most birthmarks are harmless spots, patches or lumps that are present at birth, though some can appear later in life. They vary greatly in size, shape and texture and can be located anywhere on the body. Moles that are present at birth can be considered birthmarks. Some birthmarks are caused by an overgrowth of blood vessels, while others are a result of the clumping of skin cells that give skin its color.
Types of Birthmarks
The birthmarks caused by blood-vessel malformation are called vascular birthmarks. They are usually red, pink, purple, or blue in color. Vascular birthmarks are usually on the face but may be on the head or neck. Typically, vascular birthmarks are flat or slightly raised. Types of vascular birthmarks include the following:
- Salmon patches, which are pink or red and usually appear on the face or neck. They usually fade away during the first few years of life.
- Hemangiomas, which include “strawberry” hemangiomas (red and strawberry-shaped) and deep hemangiomas (blue or purple). Usually appearing on the face or neck, both types are raised and may expand during a baby’s first year of life, but they tend to shrink and flatten out before the child reaches the age of 10.
- Port wine stains, which are flat purple, pink or red marks that usually appear on a baby’s face but can also be located on the neck, scalp or limbs. As the child grows, this type of birthmark may grow and can become darker in adulthood.
- Pigmented Birthmarks, which occur when the body overproduces the cells that make melanin. Types of pigmented birthmarks include the following:
- Café-au-lait spots, common pigmented birthmarks that are usually light-to-medium brown and can appear anywhere on the body. This type of birthmark is not dangerous. However, if your child suddenly develops multiple new spots, booking an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist is recommended.
- Mongolian spots, which are a unique shade of deep blue-gray and tend to develop on the lower back of babies with darker skin. Usually, Mongolian spots go away on their own before a child starts school.
- Moles that are present at birth. They can be nearly any color and may grow anywhere on the body. Most are not dangerous, but monitoring for changes is important. Visit a dermatologist if the mole changes in shape or size.
- Premature birth.
- Female gender.
- Caucasian race.
- Weight of 5.5 pounds or lighter at birth.
Birthmarks are rarely dangerous, but monitoring any changes over time is important. In rare cases, skin cancer can start in a birthmark, such as a mole. Make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist if any of the following symptoms occur:
- The birthmark changes in size, shape or color.
- Irregular borders appear.
- Sudden infection develops in the birthmark.
- The birthmark bleeds, and the bleeding is hard to stop.
- Pain or chronic itching occur in the area.
Treatment for Birthmarks
Usually, no treatment is necessary. However, some people choose to remove their birthmarks for cosmetic reasons. In rare cases in which skin cancer is suspected, a doctor will remove a spot by using laser removal, cryosurgery or surgical excision. If you are concerned about a birthmark, please make an appointment with a board-certified doctor at Pensacola Dermatology.
Birthmarks | American Academy of Dermatology. (2018). Aad.org. Retrieved 21 December 2018, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/bumps-and-growths/birthmarks