Definition

Birthmarks are colored spots on the skin. They may develop before or 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.

Mole
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Causes

The exact cause is not known. Some birthmarks can be genetic or part of a disease.

Risk Factors

Birthmarks may be more common in certain people. For example:

  • Café-au-lait spots may occur in people with neurofibromatosis
  • Hemangiomas are more common in females, people with light skin, and babies born very early
  • Mongolian spots are seen more often in people with darker skin
  • Port-wine stains may occur in people with Sturge-Weber or Klippel Trenaunay syndrome

Symptoms

Symptoms differ depending on the type of birthmark. For example:

  • Café-au-lait spots are light, tan colored spots on the body.
  • Hemangiomas are flat or slightly raised birthmarks that are bright red or bluish in color. They are often found on the face, head, and neck.
  • Macular stain, (also called salmon patches, "angel's kisses" or "stork bites") are pinkish or light red birthmarks. They are common on the back of the head, neck, and eyelids.
  • Mongolian spots are flat, blue-gray birthmarks on the surface of the skin. They are often found on the lower back or buttocks.
  • Port-wine stains are pink, red, or purple colored blotches. They are most common on the face, neck, arms, or legs.
  • Congenital nevi are dark, bumpy moles that may be covered in hair. They are often found on the belly and thighs.

Moles are birthmarks people are born with. Rarely, moles can become cancerous.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. Birthmarks are usually diagnosed based on how they look. If the doctor has any concerns a biopsy may be taken. You may also need to see a doctor who treats skin problems.

Treatment

Most birthmarks can and should be left alone. They may only need to be monitored. Treatment may be needed if:

  • A person does not like the way the birthmark looks
  • It causes discomfort or problems
  • It could turn into a more serious problem (rare)

Treatment depends on the type of birthmark. Options are:

  • Medicines—such as beta blockers and corticosteroids for hemangiomas
  • Laser therapy—to prevent the growth or remove some birthmarks
  • Surgery—to remove a birthmark that is causing problems
  • Makeup products— to cover up birthmarks

Prevention

Birthmarks cannot be prevented.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology
http://www.aad.org

Vascular Birthmarks Foundation
http://www.birthmark.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Dermatology Association
http://www.dermatology.ca

Health Canada
http://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Birthmarks. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/Nemours/en/parents/birthmarks.html. Accessed December 15, 2020.

Birthmarks overview. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/birthmarks-overview. Accessed December 15, 2020.

Hemangioma in infants. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hemangioma-in-infants. Accessed December 15, 2020.

Techasatian L, Sanaphay V, et al. Neonatal birthmarks: a prospective survey in 1000 Neonates. Glob Pediatric Health. 2019 Mar 29;6:2333794X19835668.

Types of birthmarks. Vascular Birthmark Foundation website. Available at:https://birthmark.org/types-of-birthmarks. Accessed December 15, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC  Last Updated: 12/15/2020