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.
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The exact cause is not known. Some birthmarks can be genetic or part of a disease.
Birthmarks may be more common in certain people. For example:
- Café-au-lait spots may happen in people with neurofibromatosis.
- Hemangiomas are more common in females, people with light skin, and babies born very early.
- Congenital dermal melanocytosis is seen more often in people with darker skin.
- Port-wine stains
may occur in people with Sturge-Weber or Klippel Trenaunay syndrome.
Symptoms differ depending on the type of birthmark. For example:
- Café-au-lait spots are light, tan-colored spots on the body.
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.
- Congenital dermal melanocytosis - 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.
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.
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
Birthmarks cannot be prevented.
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;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: 8/18/2021