Birthmark : Types, Causes, Complications And Treatment


Birthmarks are coloured blotches on the skin that appear at or shortly after birth. Most are benign and go away on their own, but some could require treatment.

Causes Of Birthmark

Pigmented birthmarks are unknown in their aetiology. However, the colour of pigmented birthmarks depends on the quantity and distribution of melanin, a chemical that determines skin colour.

Despite the possibility that cafe-au-lait spots are a common type of birthmark, neurofibromatosis may be the source of many spots(a genetic disorder that causes abnormal cell growth of nerve tissues). 

When skin cells multiply in clusters rather than uniformly throughout the skin, moles form. Melanocytes are the cells that produce the pigment that gives skin its natural colour. Following exposure to the sun, during puberty, and during pregnancy, moles may darken.

Types of Birthmarks

Birthmarks come in many different variations. 

Salmon patches:

  • Are fairly frequent
  • Appear red or pink on both light and dark skin.
  • Are easier to spot when a baby cries.
  • They often fade by the age of two when they are on the forehead or eyelids, 
  • They can take longer to dissipate when they are on the back of the head or neck.

Skin that is flat, red, or pink is known as salmon patches or stork marks.

Elevated red bumps (strawberry marks or haemangiomas)

Strawberry marks:

  • Blood vessels that form a raised red lump on the skin shortly after birth are more common in girls, premature babies (born before 37 weeks), babies with low birth weights, and babies with multiple births. 
  • These blood vessels are larger for the first 6 to 12 months after birth, and then they start to shrink and disappear by the age of 7.
  • If they impair vision, breathing, or feeding, they may require treatment since they occasionally appear under the skin and make it appear blue or purple.

Dark, purple, or crimson marks (port wine stains)

Port wine stains:

  • are red, purple, or dark marks that are typically on the face and neck and are present from birth. 
  • They resemble very dark patches on dark skin and usually affect one side of the body, but they can also affect the other.
  •  They can sometimes be made lighter using laser treatment (which works best on young children), but if left untreated, they can darken and become lumpier. 
  • They can also be a sign of Sturge-Weber syndrome, Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome, or macrocephaly capillary formation.

Brown, flat, or dark patches (cafe-au-lait spots)

Cafe-au-lait spots:

  • If a child has six or more spots, it may be a clue that they have neurofibromatosis type 1, which can manifest as light or dark brown patches that can be seen anywhere on the body. 
  • Many children frequently have one or two spots that appear darker on dark skin.

Blue-grey flecks

Birthmarks like this and others:

  • They can appear blue-grey on the skin and resemble a bruise
  • They frequently appear on the lower back, bottom, arms, or legs
  • They first appear in babies with darker skin
  •  They do not require treatment, and they typically disappear by the age of 4
  • They are not a symptom of a medical concern.
  • It should be noted in their medical history if your kid is born with a blue-grey spot.

Black or brown moles (congenital moles or congenital melanocytic naevi)

Congenital moles:

  • Brown or black moles, which are brought on by an excess of pigment cells in the skin and seem darker on people with darker skin
  • Can become darker, elevated, and hairier, especially during puberty
  •  If they are large can turn into skin cancer (the risk increases the larger they are)
  • They are not necessary to treat unless there is a risk of developing skin cancer. 

How to check if you have a Birthmark?

Please seek medical assistance if you have signs of the following:

  • If a birthmark is near your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • If it has grown larger, darker, or lumpier and you are concerned about it.
  • A birthmark hurts or is sore.
  • 6 or more cafe-au-lait spots found on your child.
  • There is a huge congenital mole on you or your child.
  • The doctor may advise you to keep an eye out for changes in the birthmark or may refer you to a skin specialist.

Symptoms Of Birthmark

Birthmarks that are pigmented may get bigger as a kid gets older, change colour over time (particularly after exposure to sunlight and as a teen as hormone levels change), become itchy, and occasionally bleed.

Red birthmark signs and symptoms include:

  • Birthmarks on the skin that appear soon after birth
  • Red skin lesions or rashes
  • Similar to blood vessels on the skin
  • Perhaps bleeding is visible
  • Skin that could rupture

Birthmark Treatments

While many birthmarks may not require treatment, some do. For this reason, if you are concerned about a birthmark, it is crucial to have it examined.

If a birthmark is harming a person's health, it may be removed by a medical professional. You must hire a private practitioner to remove a birthmark for aesthetic purposes.

Birthmarks might be treated using the following:

  • Medications to decrease blood supply to the birthmark, which can limit its growth and make it lighter in color.
  • Laser therapy reduces and lightens birthmarks by combining heat and light (it works best if started between 6 months and 1 year of age)
  • To get the birthmark surgically removed (but it can leave scarring)

Complications of Birthmarks

In circumstances when the birthmark is noticeable, some problems of pigmented birthmarks can include psychological effects. Additionally, birthmarks with colour can raise the risk of skin cancer.

Any modifications to a nevus or other skin lesion's color, size, or texture should be checked by a doctor. If there is any pain, bleeding, itching, inflammation, or ulceration of a congenital nevus or other skin lesion, consult a doctor straight away. 


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Page last reviewed: Mar 13, 2023

Next review due: Mar 13, 2025

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