Birthmarks are very common in infants. These markings may be present at birth or develop over the first month. The pigmentation of skin in the affected area may vary based on whether the mark is caused by excess melanin or overgrowth of blood vessels. Parents should consult with a pediatric dermatologist early on to determine if a birthmark is a cause for worry.
Treatments for birthmark removal do have side effects, so most marks should be left alone. In most cases, simply monitoring the skin for changes over time is all that is required. If a birthmark is disfiguring or potentially harmful, a dermatologist can identify the correct course of treatment. This might include topical creams and/or steroid injections to stop the growth of abnormal tissue. Lasers may also be used to fade pigmentation, improve skin texture, and close off blood vessels that are proliferating too fast. Typically, the sooner treatment begins, the better the outcome.
Congenital nevus is the medical term for a mole that is present at birth. Like most moles that develop over a person’s lifetime, these are typically not cancerous. As long as the infant’s mole is symmetrically shaped, small, the same color all the way across, and has a smooth border, it should not cause concern. A dermatologist can identify a high risk mole that needs to be monitored or removed.
Café au lait birthmarks are light brown and not raised form the skin. They are often irregularly shaped and may look like a freckle. The marks may be very faint at birth but usually darken by the age of two. Infants and toddlers who have a very large café au lait mark or multiple marks should be evaluated for conditions that are often associated with this pigmentation. This includes neurofibromatosis – a serious condition that causes tumors in nerve tissue.
Red and Purple Spots
Red birthmarks are called hemangiomas. These spots may be flat or raised and indicate excessive growth of vascular tissue under the skin. They keep growing for several months after birth but eventually stop. Then, they usually fade over the next several years and become less noticeable. If a hemangioma is expected to grow very large, it may be treated to limit the final size of the affected area. Medical intervention may be recommended for red birthmarks that occur near the facial features since any abnormal vascular growth around the eyes, nose, or mouth may impair function. A large facial hemangioma is sometimes an indication of serious birth defects.
Port wine stains tend to grow and darken over time instead of fading away. The skin becomes darker red or purple and may thicken and change in texture. A port wine stain may also be a sign of underlying health problems such as a seizure disorder. These birthmarks may be treated during infancy with laser therapy to reduce the appearance of the discoloration.