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Marked at birth- Do birthmarks worry you?

  • By Team TDO

Birthmark is a controversial occurrence in a newborn baby. In some cultures, a baby born with a birthmark is considered to be born with a bag full of luck, while sometimes a disfiguring or ill-located birthmark may be considered a curse!

Birthmarks are nothing, but small areas of skin with uneven pigmentation. They may appear as brown, black, or bluish patches. Sometimes they may be vascular with a superficial blood vessel involved. Most birthmarks disappear with age.

Over 80% of babies born have some or the other form of a birthmark. While only a few remain all through one’s life, the rest fade away with time.

The most commonly found birthmarks are:

  1. Vascular Stains - These are the most common ones; 70% of babies have at least one of these. They are pinkish-purplish patches of skin caused due to dilated capillaries underneath the skin. The birthmarks are called ‘stork bites’ when seen in the neck region. If found around the eyes or forehead, they are referred to as angel’s kisses. These birthmarks become very prominent when the baby cries or if there is a change in the room temperature. These marks last up to a year or two.
  2. Café au lait spots - These are brownish spots appearing in patches over the skin. These spots fade away with age. Sometimes sun exposure may cause these spots to become prominent. About 20-50% of babies are born with café au lait spots.
  3. Moles - These are clusters of pigment making cells. Only 1% of babies are born with moles. Moles generally show up later on in age. They may be flat, raised, hairy/hairless, brown, or black in color.
  4. Mongolian spots - These are typically found at the lower back region. They are large patches of extra pigmented skin and are predominantly found in dark-skinned babies. These patches go away at about school-going age.
  5. Port wine stains - These are vascular birthmarks. They are most commonly found over the eyes and on the forehead; 1 in 300 babies is born with a port wine stain. These birthmarks generally grow bigger and darker with age.
  6. Hemangioma - These are abnormally formed blood capillaries that are visible through skin. Most hemangiomas are visible only about 6 weeks after birth. By 5 years of age, these birthmarks shrink and become white and eventually leave normal looking skin behind.

Is medical intervention required?

Most birthmarks are harmless and require no medical intervention and they disappear on their own.

A few cases may require medical intervention though:

  1. A Mongolian spot on the lower back may affect spinal development.
  2. A port wine stain near the eyes or on the cheeks may lead to vision problems and glaucoma.
  3. Large hemangiomas can interfere with eating, hearing, or breathing. If they spread internally, they may damage an internal organ.
  4. 6 or more café au lait spots may indicate neurofibromatosis.
  5. Certain large moles can become cancerous.
  6. Large moles/birthmarks in the visible parts of the body can be a reason for social embarrassment.

Most doctors advise to abstain from any treatment for birthmarks as they usually fade on their own. Surgery, laser therapy, local/oral steroids remain the choice of treatment for birthmarks that prove dangerous to be left alone or are a cause of social embarrassment.