What Are Birthmarks?

Birthmarks
At birth or soon after, a colored mark may appear on a baby’s skin.  Birthmarks can be a variety of colors, shapes and sizes.  They may get darker and thicker over time or simply fade and disappear.  While some people have them in less obvious places than others, most people have a few of them.  They might be so light or small that they have gone unnoticed.

Having a color such as black, blue-gray, blue, brown, red, pink or purple makes virtually no difference when it comes to birthmarks.  These marks are harmless even if they are quite large or have a bumpy or raised texture, and most are painless.  Interestingly, experts aren’t sure why birthmarks occur in some people and not others, although some types do seem to run in families.

Marks that represent extra pigment in the skin are known as pigmented birthmarks.  Ones that have blood vessels that don’t grow normally are known as vascular birthmarks.   When a baby has a vascular type, they generally should see a doctor to determine if it requires treatment, particularly when it is near the eyes or the lips, but most birthmarks don’t require any intervention.

Pigmented Birthmarks:

Moles

A mole that is present when you are born is known as a birthmark, but ones that appear later are not.  These spots are generally small and round, with colors ranging from black to the color of the skin itself.  They can be flat and smooth or slightly raised and generally have an even border.  As you get older you can either get new moles on your body while others that you had may disappear.  It is important to pay attention to any changes in shape, color, and texture or any bleeding that occurs as these may be signs of a cancerous spot.

BirthmarksCafé-Au-Lait Spot

These spots are named for their light brown color, which resembles café-au-lait, the French phrase for coffee with milk, though they can appear darker depending on overall skin color.  They can be any size, but are commonly oval in shape.  This kind of birthmark can fade with age but likely will not go away entirely.

Mongolian Spot

The color of a Mongolian spot is grayish blue.  They are found on the back and buttocks, most commonly of those who have darker skin.  Often they resemble bruises, and they can fade over time.

Vascular Birthmarks:

Salmon Patches

Also known as stork bites or macular stains, these birthmarks are thin and flat with color ranging from red to light pink.  They are most commonly found on the upper lip, upper eyelid, back of the neck, or between the eyebrows.

Port Wine Stains

These marks are named for their appearance, as they are the color of wine – pink, purple or red.  They are most often found on the face, and they don’t disappear on their own.  Often they continue to grow as children get older.

Hemangiomas

This type of birthmark tends to grow in size on a baby’s skin before it starts to shrink, often becoming flat by around the age of 10.  When this type of birthmark appears on top of the skin, it is bright red and is known as a strawberry hemangioma due to its color and shape.  When one is formed deeper within the skin, it takes on a bluish purple appearance.

Regardless of type, most birthmarks are harmless, but in certain cases they may be growing too quickly or too close to an internal organ.  Your doctor can evaluate any birthmarks and determine if they are causing a medical problem that necessitates treatment.

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