- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Why do I have a Birthmark?
What is a Birthmark?
Birthmarks are pigments of colour which appear on an area of skin at birth. Not everyone is born with birthmarks but for those who are, they are harmless.
Birthmarks come in different types. They can vary in colour, size and where they are on the body.
There are two main types of birthmark. These are vascular birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks.
Vascular birthmarks are caused by an increase in blood vessels which group together to form the mark. They are benign with slightly different appearances.
Hemangiomas are a common type of vascular birthmark. They tend to be reddish purple in colour and are raised on the surface of the skin. Some hemangiomas are under the skin (cavernous). These are a bluer colour and slightly puffier.
Hemangiomas are harmless tumours which are present at birth. They can get larger in the first 6 months then will eventually shrink down.
They are often called Strawberry marks as they look like a strawberry on the skin.
How do I get rid of a Strawberry Hemangioma?
The mark tends to get smaller as you get older, but some people may not like where they are situated on the body. In babies, if the hemangioma causes problems with feeding, breathing or sight they will be treated to shrink down in size. This can be done either by laser treatment, steroid injection (for serious complaints) or Propranolol medication.
Salmon patches are very common. Around 50% of babies born will have a salmon patch.
Otherwise known as ‘Stork Bites’, Salmon Patches are small capillaries (blood vessels) which can be seen on the skin.
The most common areas of the body in which they appear are the nape of the neck, upper lip, forehead, eyebrows. Those on the eyebrow and forehead are often known as Angel Kisses and tend to fade away as the baby gets older.
Port Wine Stains
Whereas Salmon Patches can disappear (not in all cases), Port Wine stains are permanent.
They are usually smooth on the skin when the baby is born but can become raised and darker in appearance in adulthood.
Port Wine stains vary in size and can occur anywhere on the body. If they are in an obvious area they can be treated by laser treatments (although they may not disappear completely disappear) or covered with special camouflage makeup.
Port Wine stains can worsen with hormones caused by puberty, pregnancy and the menopause.
Pigmented birthmarks are formed from a greater development of pigmented cells. They are brown, black, bluish or grey.
- Birthmark Groups and Organizations | Port Wine Stains
Organizations dedicated to providing information and support to individuals with vascular birthmarks and port wine stains.
- Birthmark Support Group - Home
Birthmark Support Group
Moles (or melanocytic nevus) are dark spots on the skin which vary in size and tone. They can be flat or slightly raised and are caused by a collection of cells called melanocytes.
Moles are often present at birth but acquired melanocytic nevus can develop as we get older. Unlike vascular birthmarks, moles can be inherited with fairer skinned people having more than darker skinned people. They are sometimes referred to as ‘beauty spots’.
Those who spend a lot of time in the sun can have more moles, but a lot of sun exposure may lead to malignant melanoma, which can be a form of skin cancer.
Cafe au lait Spots
These are tanned marks or spots which are seen on a newborn. They are lighter in colour, often representing the colour of milky coffee (hence the name).
They can fade as the child gets older but spending a lot of time in the sun may cause them to darken.
If a child develops a lot of café au lait spots (one or two is normal) then a doctor must be consulted. The genetic disorder neurofibromatosis can show these symptoms.
Mongolian Spots look more like a bruise and are tend to be common on darker skin tones. They can appear anywhere on the body, but usually on the lower part.
Mongolian Spots are harmless and disappear in children by the age of four, although they can last for years in some people.