Birthmarks are colored spots on the skin that babies are born with or develop shortly after birth. More than 10 in 100 babies have birthmarks.
These marks can be bright red, pink, brown, tan, or bluish. Birthmarks can be flat on the surface of the skin or raised. Birthmarks are labeled by their colors and consistencies.
The most common type of birthmarks include:
These are light tan colored spots. Having up to three such spots on your body is usually fine. Having more than three café-au-lait spots can possibly indicate a condition called neurofibromatosis . It is a genetic disorder that causes skin tumors.
Hemangiomas are usually flat or slightly raised and bright red or bluish in color. They may appear anywhere on the body. They are often found on the face, head, and neck. Hemangiomas are usually present at birth or develop during the first few weeks of life. These birthmarks tend to grow quickly during the first 12 months of your child’s life. They tend to stop growing after the first year and then slowly disappear. They may also be found inside the body. Two types of hemangiomas include:
- Strawberry hemangioma—This type of hemangioma is usually raised up a bit from the skin and bright red like a strawberry. This bright red coloring is due to numerous, dilated blood vessels that are close to the surface of the skin. These hemangiomas usually go away on their own by age ten (age five in almost half of children). Most do not require any treatment unless they ulcerate or are located in places where they could prevent normal body functions, such as around the mouth, nose, eyes, anus, or throat.
- Cavernous hemangioma—This type of hemangioma is beneath the skin. It is puffier than a strawberry hemangioma and also more bluish in color. These types of hemangiomas are less likely to go away on their own. Facial hemangiomas are occasionally associated with similar vascular deformities of the brain. Your physician may recommend MRI imaging to determine whether this is present.
These are often called angel’s kisses or stork bites. These harmless birthmarks are pinkish or light red. They can be found anywhere on your child's body. They are most common back of the head and neck. Usually they are barely visible. No treatment is necessary for this type of birthmark.
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Moles appear as dark brown or black spots. Nearly everyone has small moles. They usually begin to appear after birth and are actually small groupings of colored (pigmented) skin cells.
These flat birthmarks on the surface of the skin have a blue-gray color. They are often located on the buttocks or base of the spine. These types of birthmarks are generally harmless. They are sometimes mistaken for bruises. They tend to disappear by puberty.
Port-wine stains are pink, red, or purple colored blotches on the skin. Their size varies. They can be found on the face, neck, arms, or legs. Although there are treatments to minimize the appearance of port-wine stains, they are permanent. Large port-wine stains on the face may be suggest a condition called Sturge-Weber syndrome. This syndrome can result in seizures and intellectual disability.
Congenital Hairy Nevus
Congenital hairy nevus (giant hairy nevus, bathing trunk nevus) is a dark, textured mole that is present from birth. Many of these will also be covered at least in part with hair, but some are not. They may be very large, covering the abdomen and thighs in a “bathing trunk” distribution, or smaller. They may appear at multiple sites. This particular birthmark can develop into melanoma at some point in life. It is generally removed as soon as possible, depending on size, location, and need for reconstructive surgery to achieve a good cosmetic result.
The exact cause of birthmarks is unknown.
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chances of developing particular birthmarks:
- Hemangiomas are more common in females and premature babies
- Mongolian spots are more common among Asians, East Indians, Africans, Native Americans, and Hispanics
- Café-au-lait spots are more common in African-Americans than other ethnic or racial groups
If you or your child experiences any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to birthmarks. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.
- Changes in the color of the skin (lighter or darker than usual)
- Lumps or swelling on the skin
- Changes in texture of the skin
- New lesions on the skin
- May differ in size and appearance
- Are most likely present at birth or appear in the first few weeks or months of life