Birthmarks

Parents may notice small blotches or spots on their newborn's skin. Often, small pimples or spots are temporary, and fade within the first few weeks or months of life. On the other hand, there are spots, called birthmarks, that may appear in the first days or weeks after birth. These marks can be very small or may become large and noticeable. In any event, noticing a birthmark can be upsetting.

There is no way to avoid the development of a birthmark. These spots are not "stains" brought on by anything abnormal occurring during pregnancy, nor from foods eaten during this time. Typically not associated with trauma during the birth process, there is really no known cause of birthmarks, which commonly fall into one of two categories - vascular or pigmented.

Vascular Birthmarks

This common form of birthmark is linked to the malformation of blood vessels, being that they are numerous or wider than normal. Vascular birthmarks include hemangiomas, macular stains, and port-wine stains.

Hemangiomas are sometimes called "strawberry marks," may develop either on the skin's surface, or below. A hemangioma may not become visible for several days or weeks, and may appear bright red and slightly raised. Hemangiomas that are deeper beneath the skin may appear a bluish tint due to the types of blood vessels involved. This type of birthmark can grow quickly in the first six months of life. However, it is common to see a hemangioma shrink back or even disappear by the age of ten. Commonly found on the head and neck, hemangiomas may require early treatment should they interfere with normal function such as breathing, feeding, or sight.

Macular stains are faintly red vascular birthmarks that are quite common. They often appear on the back of the head or neck, upper lip, nose, eyelids, or forehead, and may deepen in color when the baby become upset. Most of the time, a macular stain will fade naturally within one to two years, although some do remain throughout life.

Port-wine stains are areas of discoloration that may appear on the face, neck, or extremities. This type of birthmark ranges in size, and grows along with your child. Over time, a port-wine stain may become darker or thicker, and will not go away on its own. Port-wine stains near the eye should be evaluated to ensure no complications to the eye occur.

Pigmented Birthmarks

Linked to an overgrowth of pigmented cells, pigmented birthmarks may appear as Mongolian spots, moles, or café-au-lait spots.

Mongolian spots are common to ethnicities with darker skin tones, such as American Indian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or Southern European. These flat patches of blue-gray discoloration usually appear on the buttocks or back, and tend to fade or disappear altogether by the time children reach school age.

Moles are skin spots that we usually develop throughout life. However, congenital nevi are present at birth and remain throughout life. These moles may appear either flat or raised, and may be colored brown, flesh-toned, or black. A congenital nevus may have hair growing from it, called a hairy nevus. Regular, accurate evaluation of moles is encouraged as a proactive step in skin cancer detection and treatment.

Café-au-lait spots are named based on their coffee-with-cream appearance. These birthmarks may develop anywhere on the body, and may increase in quantity as a child grows. Should several of these spots develop into quarter-size areas of discoloration, professional evaluation is recommended to rule out a genetic disorder.

The offices of the Center for Dermatology and Cosmetic Laser Surgery can evaluate your child's birthmark and discuss options for treatment when necessary. Contact us in Plano, McKinney, or Flower Mound for your appointment.