Red birthmarks types, symptoms and treatment

What are red birthmarks? Red birthmarks are colored, vascular (blood vessel) skin markings that develop before or shortly after birth.

red birthmark

red birthmark

Red birthmarks types

One common kind of vascular birthmark is the hemangioma. It usually is painless and harmless and its cause is not known. Color from the birthmark comes from the extensive development of blood vessels at the site.

Strawberry hemangiomas (strawberry mark, nevus vascularis, capillary hemangioma, hemangioma simplex) might appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face, scalp, back, or chest. They consist of small, closely packed blood vessels. They might be absent at birth, and develop after several weeks. They usually grow rapidly, remain a fixed size, and then subside. In most cases, strawberry hemangiomas disappear by the time a child is 9 years old. Some slight discoloration or puckering of the skin might remain at the site of the hemangioma.

Cavernous hemangiomas (angioma cavernosum, cavernoma) are similar to strawberry hemangiomas but are more deeply situated. They might appear as a red-blue spongy mass of tissue filled with blood. Some of these lesions disappear on their own, usually as a child approaches school age.

Port-wine stains are flat, purple-to-red birthmarks made of dilated blood capillaries. These birthmarks occur most often on the face and might vary in size. Port-wine stains often are permanent (unless treated) and might thicken or darken over time, resulting in emotional distress.

Salmon patches (also called stork bites) appear on 30 percent to 50 percent of newborn babies. These marks are small blood vessels (capillaries) that are visible through the skin. They are most common on the forehead, eyelids, upper lip, between the eyebrows, and the back of the neck. Often, these marks fade as the infant grows.

Symptoms of red birthmarks

Symptoms of red birthmarks include:

Skin markings that develop before or shortly after birth
Red skin rashes or lesions
Skin markings that resemble blood vessels
Possible bleeding
Skin that might break open

Red birthmarks diagnosis

In most cases, a health care professional can diagnose a red birthmark based on the appearance of the skin. Deeper birthmarks can be confirmed with tests such as MRI, ultrasound, CT scans, or biopsies.

Red birthmarks treatment

Many capillary birthmarks such as salmon patches and strawberry hemangiomas are temporary and require no treatment. For permanent lesions, concealing cosmetics might be helpful. Cortisone (oral or injected) can reduce the size of a hemangioma that is growing rapidly and obstructing vision or vital structures. Other oral medicines have been used experimentally with some success in these cases, as well.

Port-wine stains on the face can be treated at a young age with a yellow-pulsed dye laser for best results. Treatment of the birthmarks might help prevent psychosocial problems that can result in individuals who have port-wine stains.

Permanent red birthmarks might be treated with methods including:

Cryotherapy (freezing)
Laser surgery
Surgical removal

In some cases, birthmarks are not treated until a child reaches school age. However, birthmarks are treated earlier if they result in unwanted symptoms or if they compromise vital functions such as vision or breathing.

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