What are Birthmarks?

Birthmarks are a type of discoloration that appears on the skin at birth or during the first few weeks of life. They can appear anywhere on the body and vary in size, color, appearance, and shape. While some go away on their own, others are permanent and may grow over time. Most birthmarks are harmless, but some may be indicators of an underlying medical condition.

Most birthmarks fall under one of two categories:

  • Pigmented birthmarks: These occur when there is an oversupply of pigment cells in an area. Pigment cells are what give your skin its natural coloring. These types of birthmarks may include congenital moles, café au lait spots, or Mongolian spots/dermal melanocytosis.
  • Vascular birthmarks: These occur if blood vessels in a specific area of your skin do not form the way that they should. These types of birthmarks may include salmon patches,  port-wine stains (capillary malformations), and hemangiomas of infancy.

There is nothing that can be done during pregnancy to prevent birthmarks, and the precise cause of birthmarks is unknown. While some may be inherited, most occur sporadically. 

In certain circumstances, MRI and Ultrasound studies may be ordered depending on the size, number, and location of your child’s birthmark. Your provider may also collaborate with pediatric neurosurgeons, pediatric plastic surgeons, and pediatric cardiologists when needed.

Who is a Good Candidate for Birthmark Treatment?

If your child has a birthmark that bleeds, itches, is uncomfortable, or becomes infected, be sure to contact our office as soon as possible for an assessment. Treatment may also be an option if your child’s birthmark causes them self-consciousness or anxiety. A consultation is needed to properly assess, diagnose, and treat the skin for the best possible outcomes.

What to Expect During Birthmark Treatment?

The majority of birthmarks are not dangerous and do not require removal. However, some birthmarks may lead to diminished self-esteem or lead-to an increased risk for certain medical complications. Melanoma can sometimes occur within congenital melanocytic nevi. Common treatment options include:

Laser Therapy: This treatment option works well for lightening port-wine stains, making them less visible. Laser therapy is often more successful when it is started in infancy, but may also prove helpful for older children or adults.

Corticosteroids: These are anti-inflammatory medications that can be taken by mouth or injected into the hemangioma.

Beta-blockers: These oral medications work by shrinking the blood vessel, reducing blood flow. This is a great option for treating hemangiomas of infancy. Topical timolol gel is used for smaller lesions.

Surgery: In some cases, birthmarks can be removed with surgery, including deep hemangiomas which may damage healthy tissue surrounding them, and some congenital moles. This surgery is often performed on an outpatient basis, and may even be done in-office rather than a hospital, depending on the size of the birthmark.

Birthmark FAQs

Are Birthmarks Genetic?

In short, some are, but most arent. Rare birthmarks can be caused by genetic mutations and are not passed down to children.

Can birthmarks appear at 6 months?

Most birthmarks are apparent at birth or within the first few weeks of infancy, although they can grow and develop for up to a year.

Can birthmarks be lighter than your skin?

In some cases, birthmarks can be the result of hypopigmentation as opposed to hyperpigmentation, which can lead to a whitish spot instead of a darker area.

Can birthmarks grow bigger?

Yes, some birthmarks, whether permanent or temporary, can grow with time.

Can birthmarks turn cancerous?

While most birthmarks are harmless, others can be signs of underlying medical conditions. In rare circumstances, a congenital melanocytic nevi birthmark can become melanoma.

Following Birthmark Treatment

There may or may not be downtime required following birthmark treatment, depending on the treatment chosen. Your dermatologist or physician assistant will provide you with instructions on how to properly care for your skin during and following treatment for the best possible results.

Schedule a Consultation

If your child is bothered by a birthmark or you are concerned regarding a birthmark, contact our office today! We will be happy to help you schedule a consultation with one of our Board Certified Pediatric Dermatologists.

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