Birthmarks : What Do They Mean? - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India
Health Education

Birthmarks : What Do They Mean?

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 18 Sep 2014 - 11:05.

There is probably no human being without a birthmark somewhere on his/her body, except in extremely rare cases. Every infant is born with one or more birthmarks somewhere on the body. The term birthmark means an area of raised or flat discolored skin that is usually visible on a baby's skin at birth. These birthmarks tend to be the result of an abnormal development of a blood or lymphatic vessel. However, no one knows the exact cause of all birthmarks.

Some babies don’t show birthmarks for several days or even weeks where as some babies show it at birth, Some of these may fade over time and some may stay put for life.

No birthmark is similar to another mark. They come in different shapes, sizes and colors and may show up anywhere on a child’s body. The most common varieties of birthmarks include:

  • Spots which can be single or appear in multiples this can be of permanent tan or light brown flat patches. More than 20% of all babies have this type of birthmarks (discoloration of skin in small or big patches) which can get smaller as the child grows older,
  • Moles: these vary in size and may appear raised or flat. They can be smooth or even hairy. Their color can be black or brown. Large ones are known as NEVI.
  • Bluish or greenish Mongolian type of spot generally fades by the time the baby is of school going age and they are unlikely to disappear altogether. They are most common in babies with a dark skin.
  • Angel Kisses are a type of birthmark which is blotchy and pink or purple in colors that appear on the back of the neck or over the eyelids mainly resulting from overgrown capillary veins. These usually fade in the first year of life.
  • Large berry-colored port wine stains are a type of birthmarks which are commonly found on the face or the head and usually remain permanently. The classic example of this type of port wine birthmark is the one which former president of USSR Mikhail Gorbachev has on his bald head. This variety is encountered in roughly 3 out ofevery 1000 babies.
  • Raised crimson marks known as strawberry hemangiomas so called because of their resemblance to strawberry appear on about 10% of the babies. They have a tendency to grow but usually disappear by age 10.
  • Cavernous hemangiomas are a bluish-red mass that grows rapidly during the first six months of the child’s age and then gradually shrink in size by about 18 months of age and usually gone completely when the child grows to a teen.

Most of the birthmarks are harmless and many of them go away on their own in the first five years of life.

But some of the hemangiomas and port wine stains that result from abnormal clustering of blood vessels and hence called vascular birth marks can get bigger and bigger in size over a period of time and need attention by a doctor for the simple reason that there is a chance they may turn cancerous. Hence early diagnosis and prompt action will avoid such a possibility.

Potentially problematic marks such as port wine stains particularly near the eyes, large hemangioma on an arm, leg or near an eye warrant prompt attention of a pediatrician because these types of marks may extend beneath the skin and may affect the nerves or blood flow. In some cases an MRI may be advised to detect the involvement of the spinal cord.

It would always be wise on the part of the mother to keep an eye on the large sized moles commonly known as giant pigmented Nevi and seek doctor’s attention since they are likelier than small moles, to become cancerous over time.

It is essential to remember that those of the birthmarks which are not disfiguring are better left alone. However if your baby has cavernous hemangioma on the face you may understandably be distressed by the appearance .In such cases, you must consult a doctor for correct advice and prompt action. Hemangiomas if located close to the eye, throat or mouth warrant urgent medical attention. 

There are several options for treatment. They include freezing of the birthmark through cryosurgery, laser or x-ray therapy or use of topical steroids. Almost all birthmark removal techniques may cause some scaring. Port wine stains are difficult for complete removal. However, the size and color can be substantially reduced.

A word of caution to all mothers whose babies have large and conspicuous birthmarks that may invite sensitive comments from the onlookers and relatives. Just ignore their comments and impress upon the child as he grows to refrain from getting upset. They should frankly tell those who pass such comments that they better bother about their own business.


*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.