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Nobody is born with flawless skin. In fact, we have a range of unique features on our skin, ranging from moles to beauty spots and pimples to birthmarks. These are the things that make us beautiful and unique. Read on to find useful insights about how birthmarks are formed, their dangers, and methods to treat them.
What Are Birthmarks?
Regions of discoloured skin on your baby that appear either at birth or later are known as birthmarks. Baby birthmarks can vary from minor blemishes to sizable disfigurations and can be present anywhere on the body. Nearly ninety percent of all newborns have birthmarks, most of which disappear with time, while others are permanent. However, birthmarks might indicate underlying health issues, so consult your doctor if you are concerned.
What Do Birthmarks Look Like?
Birthmarks come in a variety of size, form, texture and colour. There are two main types, vascular birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks. Vascular birthmarks occur due to developmental defects in the blood vessels under the skin. They appear as a spectrum of colours between red and blue, depending on how deep the blood vessels are located. Pigmented birthmarks are a result of abnormalities in the pigment-containing cells, and tend to be dark like brown, black, or deep grey. With regards to the texture and shape, they can be smooth or rough, with even or uneven edges.
Types of Birthmarks in Babies
Based on their characteristics, there are different kinds of birthmarks:
1. Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (Moles)
Congenital melanocytic nevus or moles usually appear on the face, back and neck, but can occur elsewhere too. Light-skinned babies exhibit them as a pale brown shapeless mark, which may or may not be smooth. In dark-skinned infants, they are dark brown or black. Their size varies but usually gets smaller as your baby ages.
2. Port Wine Stains
Port wine stains, also known as nevus flammeus, are flat birthmarks that are maroon-coloured. They mostly show up on your baby’s face and head and tend to get larger and darker with age. Around 0.3% of all newborns have a port-wine stain on their body. Over time, they may even morph into rough, lumpy marks.
A haemangioma refers to different types of birthmarks made up of abnormal blood vessels. They are usually tiny, affecting around three per cent of newborns on the face and neck. There are two significant haemangiomas:
- Strawberry Haemangioma
This type of haemangioma is an elevated red birthmark on baby with the colour and rough elevated texture found in strawberries. They are superficial and temporary, with nearly all of them vanishing before your little one’s tenth birthday.
- Cavernous Haemangioma
Unlike strawberry haemangiomas, this birthmark is a rough dark-violet colour due to emerging from deep within the skin. They develop rapidly but tend to disappear before your child’s fifth birthday.
4. Mongolian Spots
Mongolian spots refer to blue or green birthmarks that resemble bruises spanning a few centimetres. Usually found on the back or buttocks, they tend to be smooth regions of pigmented skin, mostly observed in East Asian, African, Native American, Indian and Latino people. While these harmless marks diminish over time, they never fade away entirely.
5. Café-au-lait Spots
These oval spots are the colour of light coffee. They are very common in babies, with nearly a half having at least one spot. They occasionally fade but may get darker if your child is exposed to a lot of sun.
6. Salmon Patches
Salmon patches are smooth light-peach-coloured marks that materialise on your baby’s eyes, forehead and nape. They usually vanish before the first year.
What Are the Causes of Birthmarks?
The science of birthmarks is not entirely understood, especially why they are prevalent in some newborns but not in others. However, there are several potential reasons for birthmarks:
- A few studies have shown that birthmarks might be due to a placental fragment embedded in the foetus during early gestation.
- Strawberry haemangiomas are thought to be caused by endothelial cells from the blood vessels accumulating in one spot.
- Port wine stains might be caused by extremely dilated capillaries, which in turn are a result of nerve damage.
- Research shows that salmon patches occur due to blood vessels concentrating under the skin.
Do Birthmarks Need Medical Attention?
While most birthmarks don’t need any medical attention, there are a few complications of birthmark that might require the care of a dermatologist:
- Strawberry haemangiomas might acquire infections if they turn into an open wound. They may also cause vision problems if present in the eye region.
- Similarly, if present around the nose or throat, Haemangiomas will need to be treated as they might hinder breathing and feeding.
- Haemangiomas can also develop inside the body, causing problems in different organs.
- A few congenital moles might turn cancerous over time.
- Eye conditions such as glaucoma can occur if your baby has a port-wine stain on their eyelids.
- If your baby has non-superficial spinal birthmarks, they may impact the functioning of the spinal cord.
Can Birthmarks Be Removed?
Depending on the location, birthmarks may or may not require removal. Most times doctors will ask you to be patient and wait to see if they disappear on their own. However, sometimes early treatment might be useful, especially for disfiguring birthmarks. Baby birthmark removal options are listed below.
Different Treatments for Birthmarks
As mentioned above, there are several treatments available for getting rid of birthmarks. Here are a few of them:
1. Steroid hormones
Also called corticosteroids, these medications are used to control swelling and inflammation in the skin. They can be taken in a tablet form or via injection into the birthmark to induce shrinkage and stop it from growing bigger.
2. Laser treatment for birthmarks
Laser treatment for birthmarks is short pulses of high-intensity laser light used to remove superficial birthmarks. The advantage of this technique is the lack of scarring after the procedure.
3. Surgical removal
This step is taken only if other methods have not been fruitful, and if the birthmark poses serious health complications. It is a minor procedure and is performed under local anaesthesia.
Are Birthmarks a Symptom of Any Disorder?
Several birthmarks are indicative of an underlying disorder and might require clinical evaluation. Some of these conditions are:
1. Neurofibromatosis Type 1
If your baby has 4-6 cafe-au-lait marks, you will have to get them tested for this genetic disorder. Nearly half the people with neurofibromatosis type 1 also have developmental impairments.
Large melanocytic nevi present in newborns indicate a high risk of turning into cancer.
3. Sturge-Weber Syndrome
Caused by port-wine stain birthmarks on the upper face and eye area, this condition can cause severe vision and neurological problems.
4. Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome
Children with this syndrome have asymmetrically developed limbs due to the presence of a port-wine stain on one of them. This happens due to the muscular tissues around the birthmark growing at a faster rate than on the other limb.
How to Help Kids Deal With Birthmarks?
Children don’t know or worry about medical complications. For them, the most important thing is the cosmetic impact their birthmarks have on their appearance. Make sure you tell people, whether friends or strangers, not to stare at your child or pass comments on their birthmarks. Help your child understand that it is perfectly natural to have a birthmark and that she is not different from any other kid. Also, don’t forget to inform your child’s school, so they can ensure everyone reacts to their birthmarks in a kind and friendly manner.
It is understandably frustrating to see your little one covered with unsightly marks. However, birthmarks are a part of life, so there is no need to worry unless they are causing problems. If you are anxious about it, consult your doctor.