Understanding Birthmark Types in Babies

birthmark types

Birthmarks in babies are often present in newborns and may be visible right at birth or appear in the first few months. Some birthmark types occur because of an abnormal collection of blood vessels, while others develop because of the maldistribution of pigment cells.

Though most birthmarks in kids are inconsequential, occasionally, the location, size, or several birthmarks calls for a closer evaluation of possibly associated conditions. Your doctor will be able to tell you which birthmarks demand a better look.

different Birthmark types

Salmon Patch

SALMON-PATCH

About one-third of babies are born with one or more salmon patches. Common locations are either “stork bites” at the nape of the neck or “angel kisses” on the forehead between the eyes.

These birthmarks in babies look like small, pink, flat marks on the skin and are a collection of tiny malformed blood vessels. Frequently, when babies cry or get fussy, these marks appear darker. Many of these patches will fade away in the first year of life.

However, some, especially on the nape of the neck or on the lower back, may persist indefinitely. These patches are not associated with other conditions and no further evaluation is required.

Port Wine Stains

Port wine Stain- Birthmark Types in babies

These are visible in 0.2 to 0.3% of newborns. These marks also result from malformed blood vessels but tend to persist into adulthood. They start as flat pinkish-red marks and progress to thicker purple-red marks.

Sometimes as these marks progress, they may be accompanied by nodules, or raised mounds of skin, underlying the discoloration. Depending on the location of the port-wine stains, on occasion, they are associated with syndromes that include features of seizures, glaucoma, developmental delay, and difficulty with limb movement.

Infants with this type of birthmark should be thoroughly examined for the possibility of further testing. 

In the past, masking cosmetics and skin grafts helped with temporary or incomplete camouflage of the port wine stains. Recently, pulsed-dye yellow laser therapy has proven to be successful in permanently removing the discoloration of port-wine stains by disrupting the blood vessels that form them. The technique has little risk of scarring and is relatively painless. It may require multiple treatment sessions. Some of the birthmarks with more profound components may not show as much improvement. Treatment in early childhood, however, brings the best results and requires fewer number of treatments!

Venous Malformations 

They appear in 1 to 4% of babies and may not be visible until later in life. These birthmarks in infants are blue or purple and may look like little dots in the skin or, if larger, they may look like bruises under the skin that don’t go away. If the malformation goes a little deeper, it can have a ropy texture to it.

Dilated veins generally cause these marks and are often found on the face and mouth or in the limbs. It is also possible to have these birthmarks in babies on internal organs like the intestines or brains.

These continue to grow with time and are often accompanied by swelling and pain in nearby joints and bones. Sometimes compression garments help reduce symptoms, and other times special therapy or surgery is required to destroy these veins. 

Hemangiomas 

HEMANGIOMAS

They are yet another type of birthmark stemming from closely packed blood vessels. These occur in up to 10% of infants by one month of age and tend to be more common in girls and preemies. They may start as flat red marks that rapidly grow in the first year of life.

Often they will be raised and compressible with demarcated borders leading to the historical name “strawberry hemangioma,” or they may lie underneath the skin leading to the categorization of “cavernous hemangioma.”

In either case, by about 12 months of age, hemangiomas begin to involute and get gray. They flatten out and slowly regress completely. 50% are entirely gone by five years of age, and 90% are gone by nine years of age. Sometimes after the hemangioma vanishes, loose skin or scarring may remain. 

Though hemangiomas rarely require treatment, if they are located near the airway or eye or any other part of the body where that initial growth of the hemangioma might be dangerous, either steroid therapy or pulsed-dye laser therapy can help shrink the hemangioma.

Widespread or rapidly growing hemangiomas may be related to underlying syndromes that also affect the heart and blood flow. Again, in these situations, your physician may recommend further testing. 

Nevi (moles) 

Young man with birthmarks on light background, closeup

These birthmark types in babies result from an abnormal clustering of skin cells. They may be flesh-colored, reddish, brown, or black and can range in size from pinpoint to sometimes covering half of a baby’s body! Nevi may fade or disappear over time but need to be watched closely as they may carry an increased risk of becoming skin cancer.

Usually, growth in size, change in shape, darkening of color, increase in number, or irregularity of borders warrants your doctor’s evaluation. Sun exposure may cause the darkening of nevi. Surgical removal is usually reserved for those moles that raise suspicion.

Café-Au-Lait Spots

CAFÉ-AU-LAIT SPOTS
Close up pr Kid’s birthmark on his chest

These birthmark types are flat, smooth, tan, or brown colored oval birthmarks that appear in 10 to 20% of individuals either at birth or in childhood. They result from an abnormal clustering of pigment cells. Some may be as small as freckles, while others might be more than 20 centimeters in diameter. They usually occur on the trunk, buttocks, and legs but may occur on any area of the skin. Though these are generally not worrisome, if an individual has more than six spots or if the spots are larger than the diameter of a quarter, they are sometimes associated with syndromes and require further investigation.   

Mongolian Spots

MONGOLIAN SPOTS

These birthmarks are flat, smooth, irregularly shaped blue-green birthmarks often found on the buttocks and lower back. There tends to be a higher occurrence in African-American, Asian American, and darker-skinned babies.

At times their appearance resembles that of a bruise. There is no treatment required for Mongolian spots. By 3-5 years of age, they are often camouflaged by normal pigment cells.

These, too, form because of abnormal clustering of pigment cells, but these cells are clustered in a different layer of skin than the cells that create café-au-lait spots.  

Hypopigmented Macules

These are flat, smooth, sometimes oval, and sometimes irregularly shaped birthmarks that are devoid of color and appear whitish. Single hypopigmented macules present in 0.1% or more of newborns and maybe markers for a syndrome associated with seizures and tumors on the brain. This is not always the case, though, and your doctor can help evaluate them.

Final Thoughts

There are many types of birthmarks, and very often, they are simple companions through childhood and at times through life.

On occasion, however, these “marks” mark the start of a search that leads our infants and children to the resources and help they need to get off to a smooth start. As the saying goes – “On your mark, get set, go!”

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