Birthmarks are a diverse group of lesions that are present at birth or may appear some time after birth. Some birthmarks are in fact permanent and others may fade as the child grows. Most birthmarks are harmless, but some may be a sign of underlying disease or may necessitate treatment for cosmetic or medical reasons. Some common birthmarks are described below.
Café au lait spots are common light brown, coffee colored spots that can occur anywhere on the body. Typically when the café au lait spot is single and small, it is benign and does not require treatment. However, if there are many café au lait spots or the café au lait spot is very large, then it may be a sign of an underlying genetic condition. If your child has many café au lait spots, ask your physician whether further evaluation by a dermatologist may be warranted.
A congenital nevus is a dark mole that is present at birth and typically presents on the scalp or trunk. These moles can range in size greatly from small to large. When the congenital nevus is large (estimated to be 20 cm or greater when the baby reaches adulthood), then the child may be at a slightly increased risk of developing melanoma, a type of skin cancer within the lesion and should have the mole checked regularly.
Also, the location of the mole on the body can be significant, if it is midline (over the spine), then there may be a need for a neurological examination. If your child has a congenital nevus overlying their spine, ask your physician if further evaluation is warranted.
A Mongolian spot is a dark brown, grey or bluish area usually on the trunk of babies of Asian, Hispanic or African descent. These marks can be mistaken for bruises but are not dangerous. Mongolian spots can occur less commonly on arms or legs. Mongolian spots tend to fade as the baby grows older and may fade completely. They do not require treatment.
A Port Wine Stain is permanent birthmark caused by a malformation of capillaries. It starts off as a faint pink mark that grows darker as the child grows. Typical locations for a port wine stain are on the face or neck. Port wine stains are benign. However, as the child grows, the port wine stain may become darker and may develop a thickened, pebbled surface. Laser treatments are usually the treatment of choice when the patient desires treatment to improve the appearance of the port wine stain.
Occasionally, port wine stains in certain locations may be associated with underlying disorders such as Sturge-Weber and Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome. If your child has a port wine stain, ask your physician if further evaluation is warranted.
A Hemangioma is a fast growing pink or red birthmark which is usually not present at birth but appears soon after birth. Hemangiomas are collections of blood vessels which grow rapidly within the first year of life and then typically start to recede and by the child’s tenth year should be almost resolved.
Typically hemangiomas are benign and do not require treatment. Problems arise if the hemangiomas are around the eye (difficulty with vision), neck (difficulty with breathing), mouth (difficulty feeding), and genitals (difficulty with removal). Hemangiomas in these critical locations should be treated. Also, if the infant has several hemangiomas they should be evaluated by a dermatologist to ensure that they do not have internal hemangiomas.
Many birthmarks are harmless and do not require any treatment. However, birthmark removal is possible and may be used for cosmetic reasons or to alleviate symptoms. Depending on the type of birthmark, different options for treatment or removal may exist for improving the appearance of the lesion and improve the symptoms related to the birthmark.
Many birthmarks can be removed by lasers or surgical excision. While not all birthmarks can be treated in this fashion, schedule an evaluation at Spectrum Dermatology to explore your options.
Spectrum Dermatology provides expertise, knowledge and passion to medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology. Our experience and reputation make Spectrum Dermatology one of the most sought-after dermatologist in the Scottsdale and Phoenix area. For more information or to set up an appointment please contact us at (480) 948-8400.