Birthmarks are very common and can take many forms. While a majority of birthmarks are present at birth, others may slowly develop over time. In most cases, birthmarks pose no health concern. However, they can be a source of self-consciousness, and some concerning conditions may appear similar to a birthmark. For these reasons, it is beneficial to have a qualified dermatologist like Dr. Damstetter examine your birthmark. If you choose, treatments are available to reduce the appearance of most types of birthmarks.
Birthmarks may be the result of excess pigment in the skin, irregular blood vessels, or other factors. Moles are also considered a type of birthmark. Some common types of birthmarks include the following.
Strawberry hemangioma, or superficial infantile hemangioma, are reddish lumps on the skin that feel firm or rubbery. These tend to grow quickly until the child reaches 4-6 months old, but may continue to grow for a longer period of time. After a strawberry hemangioma stops growing, it will typically shrink, soften, and turn gray in color. Most go away completely on their own, though they may cause pain as the birthmark shrinks.
A salmon patch, or nevus simplex, is a flat pink or salmon-colored spot on the skin. These often become more noticeable if the baby is irritated or crying and may fade in color when touched. Salmon patches typically fade or disappear entirely from ages 1-3, but some may faintly persist throughout life. They are most common on the face or neck.
Also called a cafe-au-lait macule, this is a flat and darkened patch of skin that may appear tan or brown in color. Café-au-lait spots can range in size from as small as a freckle to several inches across. They can appear virtually anywhere on the face or body and typically remain for life unless treated.
A Mongolian spot, or dermal melanocytosis, is a blue or blue-gray flat spot on the skin that often resembles a bruise. These types of birthmarks are most common among those of Asian descent but can occur in virtually any patient. Mongolian spots can vary greatly in size. They typically disappear by ages 3-5 but can persist into adulthood.
Port-wine stains, or nevus flammeus, are pink, red, or purple patches of skin. These tend to develop over time by growing or changing in texture, causing thickening or ridges. Port-wine stains will remain for life unless treated.
Known medically as organoid hamartoma, a nevus sebaceous develops on the scalp and is a hairless and raised patch. This may change over time, but will not disappear with age.
A white spot, or hypopigmented macule, is simply an area of lightened or unpigmented skin. They are most common on the chest, abdomen, back, or buttocks, and typically disappear over time.
Dr. Damstetter recommends routine examinations of a birthmark to ensure there are no medical concerns. Seeing a board-certified dermatologist to examine birthmarks is beneficial because they can in rare cases implicate an underlying condition. For example, multiple café-au-lait spots can sometimes be a sign of a genetic nerve disorder. These conditions are rare.
Laser treatments can be effective in reducing or removing pigmented or vascular birthmarks. This is especially beneficial for large or prominent birthmarks, such as those on the face.
Medications can also be prescribed to help shrink a hemangioma birthmark. Options include propranolol, timolol, or a corticosteroid.
Finally, some birthmarks must be removed surgically. This includes moles and other raised birthmarks.
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To learn more about birthmark treatment, schedule an appointment with Dr. Damstetter. Call Reserve Dermatology in Glenview, IL or contact us online.