Some babies are born with colored marks on their skin, or they develop these marks soon after birth. If there is a discoloration of the skin in the early stage of life, then it is known as a birthmark. This skin condition is quite common. In fact, many children have at least one mark of some sort, with coloring ranging from red to brown. Sometimes, birthmarks will disappear without treatment. But if an adult still has a birthmark and wants to remove the discoloration, they might consider cosmetic treatments.
What are Birthmarks?
Parents are often concerned when they see a mark on their baby’s skin, but the truth is that these birthmarks are usually harmless. Some children are born with birthmarks already present, while other children develop these marks soon after birth. What does a birthmark look like? It is different for every person. If you have a question about whether a spot of the skin has a birthmark, you can ask a doctor or dermatologist for a diagnosis. Birthmarks are often flat in texture, but there are times when the marks can be raised slightly above the rest of the skin. The borders can be irregular or regular. Coloring is often red or brown but can also include other shades such as pink, purple, pale blue, black, or tan.
If a child has a birthmark, it can be helpful to have this area examined by a doctor. Even though it is assumed that most birthmarks are harmless, there are rare situations where birthmarks could be an indication of an underlying health concern that needs to be addressed. So, it’s smart to rule out any potential health issues or complications. Often, the birthmark will fade over time and without treatment. But if the discoloration stays, some people choose cosmetic procedures to minimize the appearance or eliminate the birthmark if possible. Treatment options vary depending on the type of birthmark, location, color, and more. An experienced cosmetic doctor can offer recommendations to treat the birthmark and improve the overall appearance of the skin.
Common Types of Birthmarks?
The term “birthmark” is a general phrase referring to a range of skin discolorations. The color, shape, size, and overall appearance will vary depending on the type of birthmark. These skin spots fall into two categories: vascular birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks.
This vascular birthmark is one of the most common types, also known as angel kisses, salmon patches, or stork bites. They are faint red marks, most often located on the eyelids, forehead, back of the neck, upper lip, nose, or back of the head.
Sometimes, macular stains appear more noticeable when a baby is crying because the intensity of the cry increases blood flow in the area.
Typically, macular stains will fade without treatment by the time a child is 1 – 2 years old. But there are situations where these birthmarks remain throughout a person’s life.
There are several types of hemangiomas: superficial remains on the surface of the skin, deep runs below the surface of the skin, and compound affects both the deeper and surface layers of the skin.
Usually, hemangiomas develop in the first few days or weeks after birth. Then it shrinks and sometimes disappears entirely by the time the child reaches the age of 5 – 10. If it is a particularly large hemangioma, it might leave a spot of abnormal skin after the birthmark disappears.
It usually has a texture that is slightly raised. Surface hemangiomas are red in color, while deeper hemangiomas often look blue in color.
The most common type of pigmented birthmark is the color of coffee with milk, which is why it is called a café-au-lait spot. These birthmarks can occur anywhere on the body, and a child might develop more spots as they get older.
One or a few of these birthmarks aren’t a concern. But if there are more than 6 spots, or the marks are large, then it could be an indication of a genetic disorder known as neurofibromatosis (which causes nerve tissues to grow abnormally). So, parents should consult with the child’s doctor to rule out any other diagnosis.
What Causes Birthmarks?
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of birthmarks. But it’s suspected that birthmarks can’t be prevented. Researchers believe these skin marks are not caused by anything a woman does (or doesn’t do) during pregnancy. Since the exact cause is unknown, there are no clear recommendations for preventing birthmarks.
When a birthmark falls in the vascular category, the spot is present because of abnormal capillaries or blood vessels in the skin. They include port-wine stains and hemangiomas and can range in color from pink to red to purple. Doctors don’t understand why these vascular abnormalities happen. It could potentially occur because of blood vessel developmental abnormalities during the pregnancy.
The next type of birthmark happens because of an overgrowth of pigment cells in the affected skin. This birthmark can also happen if there is an overgrowth of melanocytes. Genetics is thought to be the cause of pigmented birthmarks. Both Mongolian spots and café-au-lait spots fall into this category.
Sometimes, children are born with or develop congenital moles (melanocytic nevi). These birthmarks happen because of an overgrowth of melanocytes that cluster together during certain stages of fetal development. Most of the time, these birthmarks are harmless, but there is a slight increase in the risk of melanoma as an adult.
Different types of birthmarks have been connected with syndromes or genetic conditions. One example is that Sturge-Weber syndrome is associated with port-wine stains. Or, neurofibromatosis is often associated with an increased number of café-au-lait spots.
Procedures That Remedy Birthmarks
Even though there isn’t usually a medical concern because of the presence of a birthmark, many people want to remove these marks for cosmetic reasons. The good news is that many modern treatments can help to reduce the overall appearance of the birthmark – or even eliminate it altogether.
Mole RemovalFind doctors who offer Mole Removal
When a birthmark has a raised texture, it can be a mole. The treatment for mole removal is to excise the raised and discolored portion of the skin, then close it with sutures if necessary. Other mole removal options include laser ablation or cryotherapy, but these methods are only recommended if there is no need to test the mole for cancerous cells.
Pulsed Dye LaserFind doctors who offer Pulsed Dye Laser
This type of laser is commonly recommended for vascular birthmarks, such as port-wine stains. The concentrated light emitted from the laser targets blood vessels in the treatment area. As a result, these vessels fade and shrink after the treatment. Most of the time, multiple treatment sessions are necessary to achieve the desired results.
Laser TreatmentsFind doctors who offer Laser Skin Resurfacing
The most common treatment for birthmark removal is using laser treatment. The laser targets the pigmented cells and breaks them down, which can completely remove the birthmark or lighten the overall appearance. Laser therapy is effective for both vascular and pigmented birthmarks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are birthmarks permanent?
Some birthmarks are present at birth or develop in the early weeks and months of a child’s life, then fade away by the time the child is 5 – 10 years old. These birthmarks naturally go away without a need for treatments.
On the other hand, there are types of birthmarks that remain for life. Some adults feel self-conscious about these discolorations and choose cosmetic treatments to reduce or eliminate the appearance of the birthmarks. Talk to a doctor about treatment options to eliminate one or more birthmarks on your skin.
Do birthmarks require treatment?
In most cases, birthmarks aren’t considered a problem because they don’t cause any medical concerns. If the mark is bleeding or uncomfortable, then it might be recommended that the birthmark be removed.
As a general rule of thumb, birthmarks are thought to be harmless. But having a doctor examine a birthmark never hurts to rule out other diagnostics.
Even though birthmarks are harmless, it’s common for adults to seek treatment for aesthetic reasons. Birthmarks can be removed using different methods to help people feel more confident about their appearance.
Are birthmarks hereditary?
Even though the exact cause of birthmarks is unknown, some doctors suspect that genetic factors play a role in the development of these skin discolorations. Certain types of birthmarks, such as hemangiomas, often run in families – so a child has a higher risk of birthmarks if one or both of the parents also have birthmarks.
A doctor can help you determine if genetics are playing a role in the development of birthmarks. But researchers haven’t been able to find any preventive solutions – regardless of what a mother does or doesn’t do during pregnancy.
Can birthmarks be a sign of a more serious condition?
Even though most birthmarks are harmless, there are instances where the mark could be a symptom of another health condition that needs to be addressed. For example, it could be a genetic disorder if a child has a lot of café-au-lait spots.
Additionally, vascular birthmarks can sometimes be associated with other health concerns. Regardless of the birthmark's location, appearance, shape, or size, it’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced doctor to rule out other potential health concerns. The doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend treatments that might be necessary for medical or cosmetic reasons.