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Birthmarks

 

A birthmark represents a benign abnormal mark on the skin at birth or appears shortly after birth. These marks can be present anywhere on the skin.

Prevalence and Course of Birthmarks

The prevalence of occurrence of birthmark is around 5% globally.  These birthmarks occur more often in girls as opposed to boys.  The common areas in which birthmarks occur include the head, neck area, arms or hands but can also be present anywhere on the body and are often referred to as an angel’s kiss or mother’s marks.

Birthmarks can be of various colors, and nature. They can be flat or raised and have regular or irregular borders or edges. The colors of these marks range from brown, red, tan, purplish, black, pink or pale. They may be as small as a dot or large in nature.

Types of Birthmark

There are two main types of birthmarks, vascular red-colored birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks.  Vascular birthmarks include strawberry hemangiomas, stork bites and port-wine stains while pigmented birthmarks include moles, mongolian spots or café-au-lait spots.

Symptoms of Birthmarks

Each type of birthmark has its own characteristic appearance:

Moles: These are small, round in shape and may vary is their size and appearance. The most common are melanocytic nevus.

Mongolian spots: These are usually a bluish color and look like a bruise. They are present on the lower side of the back or around the buttocks, but can also occur in other areas of the body.

Cafe-au-lait spots: These resemble the color of prepared coffee, are tan in color or light brown; their shape is usually oval in nature.  If there are just 1 or 2 in number, they are considered normal; if there is more than 2 in number, they may be the indicator of neurofibromatosis.

Hemangioma: This is a raised and red color mark, characteristic of dilated blood vessels. It appears shortly after birth and usually diminishes by the age of 10.

Birthmarks may sometimes be abnormally dark or light in color. They may contain hairs or appear as a skin lump or lesion.

Diagnosing Birthmarks

Diagnosis is based on the appearance of these birthmarks and their history.  A biopsy is sometimes necessary to exclude cancerous developments or to check the nature of these lesions especially if they are raised.

When to see a Doctor?

If you have a birthmark, and you realize that it is starting to grow in size, or change in consistency or appearance along with some itching, pain or any inflammation, it is time to see your health care provider.

Treatment of Birthmarks

Since these are benign marks, they are usually harmless and require no medical intervention.  Most of the time pigmented marks resolve on their own or remain on the skin without causing further complications. Sometimes, birthmarks affect the appearance of a person if present on the face or exposed parts; for cosmetic reasons, these can be surgically removed.

Surgery depends on the type of birthmark and its underlying pathology.

Prevention of Birthmarks

There is no way to prevent the development of birthmarks. However, one can prevent the development of complications associated with them by applying sunblock/sunscreen before going outside or exposing these to direct sunlight.

 

 

 

 

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