What Parents Should Know about Birthmarks
Port Wine Stains
Port wine stains are red, dark red, or purplish birthmarks that appear level with the skin and are caused by a deficiency in the nerve supply to blood vessels under the skin. (Former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev had one on his head and face.) They occur equally among boys and girls in about .3% of births. Unlike hemangiomas, these birthmarks are almost always visible at birth and sadly don’t go away on their own. Though they are treatable with multiple laser treatments, and some even disappear completely, port wine stains will come back eventually; so routine laser maintenance is necessary.
Café au Lait Spots
One in five people can show you their café au lait spot, birthmarks named for their light tan color. They appear at birth, usually on the trunk and limbs and tend to appear darker in babies with dark complexions. These marks are usually harmless and can be successfully removed with laser therapy. But numerous or large café au lait spots can signal a serious genetic disease called neurofibromatosis, so when in doubt, point them out to your pediatrician for an expert opinion.
Mongolian spots are bluish, grey patches typically found on the back, buttocks, and upper legs of Asian, East Indian, Latino, and African children. They are caused by excess pigmentation in the skin and usually fade completely by the time children enter kindergarten.
According to Linda Shannon, “Vascular birthmarks are misunderstood because little is taught in medical schools on the subject.” She says, “Don’t be afraid to question the medical community. As parents of a precious child, it is your responsibility to find out everything you can about any illness or defect your child has.” Shannon advises parents who encounter resistance to treatment from their pediatrician to visit the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation website, the leading birthmark website in the world, to download information. Parents can share that information with their physician or contact any of the doctors listed on the site for further evaluation.
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