Birthmarks are colored spots on the skin that babies are born with or develop shortly after birth. These marks can be bright red, pink, brown, tan, or bluish. Birthmarks can be flat on the surface of the skin or raised.
The most common types of birthmarks include:
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The exact cause of birthmarks is unknown.
Birthmarks are more common in females and in premature babies. They are often more common among people of Asian, African, Native American, and Hispanic descent.
Birthmarks may cause:
Most of these birthmarks are harmless. However, hemangiomas and port-wine stains may produce some complications.
On rare occasions, moles can become cancerous. Any suspicious, colored lesion should be examined by a physician and closely observed or removed.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Birthmarks are usually diagnosed based on the appearance of the skin area. If there is any question of the diagnosis, a biopsy may be taken and tested. You may also be referred to a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in skin disorders.
Most birthmarks can and should be left alone. Treatment is generally recommended if the birthmark is:
Treatment options include the following:
Regular check-ups with your doctor or dermatologist are important for lesions undergoing treatment or observation.
Birthmarks cannot be prevented.
American Academy of Dermatology
Vascular Birthmarks Foundation
Canadian Dermatology Association
Birthmarks. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body/birthmarks.html. Updated April 2013. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Guttman C. Clinical, molecular features aid worrisome birthmark recognition. Dermatology Times. 2005;26(4):66-67.
Hemangioma information. Vascular Birthmark Foundation website. Available at: http://www.birthmark.org/node/24. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Hemangioma in infants. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 22, 2014. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Why people get birthmarks. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/for-kids/about-skin/birthmarks/why-people-get-birthmarks. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Fabienne Daguilh, MDLast Updated: 6/4/2015