What are birthmarks?

A birthmark is a colored spot on or just under the skin. Most birthmarks show up when a baby
is born. Some are noticed shortly after the baby is born. Some birthmarks fade away as the child
grows up, but some stay and get bigger, thicker, and darker.

Nearly all birthmarks are harmless and painless. They can be almost any size, shape, or color. Birthmarks have two primary causes: blood vessels that bunch together or do not grow normally and extra pigment-producing cells, or melanocytes, in the skin. Doctors don’t know what’s responsible for these two causes, but many think there is a genetic component involved.

The most common birthmark is the port-wine stain. The stain is usually pink-red at birth and tends to become red or purple as a person ages. Port-wine stains, caused by blood vessels that do not grow normally, can have various sizes and shapes. Port-wine stains most often show up on the face, back, or chest. The strawberry birthmark is another that is found on newborns. It is also caused by a clumping of blood vessels that do not grow normally.

Mongolian spots are benign congenital birthmarks found mostly on East Asians. Originating on the lower back, these bluish spots disappear by the time the child reaches age five. A salmon patch is a very common birthmark, occurring on 75 percent of newborns. It is caused by dilation of tiny blood vessels. Most salmon patches disappear by age one or two. Stork marks appear on the back of the neck, middle of the forehead, or upper eyelids. They vanish by the time the child is two years old.

The downside of birthmarks is that kids have to live with the teasing, ribbing, and cruel remarks of classmates. Some kids can go through a miserable childhood enduring the slings and arrows of their peers. But there is some good news. Makeup creams can hide many birthmarks on the face and neck or make them less noticeable. Others can be removed by surgery or lightened with a laser, but these treatments can be painful. Since most birthmarks are harmless, most are not treated.

Related posts