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Birth Marks


A birthmark is a patch of discolored skin that appears at or shortly after birth. Birthmarks can be red, pink, blue, light or dark brown, or black. Although most birthmarks are harmless, birthmark removal is often performed for cosmetic reasons. Some birthmarks can be treated using non-surgical methods to lighten pigmentation.

Types of Birthmarks

Birthmarks can be classified into two groups: pigmented and vascular. Pigmented birthmarks include moles, café-au-lait spots, and Mongolian spots. These birthmarks are generally smooth, flat, and harmless. Moles with irregular edges, uneven coloring, or rough texture should be examined by a dermatologist because they pose an increased risk of skin cancer, but otherwise these discolorations are merely a cosmetic problem.

Vascular birthmarks include hemangiomas, port wine stains, and salmon patches. These are caused by an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the skin. Salmon patches and hemangiomas are usually temporary and tend to disappear in early childhood. Birthmark removal is not recommended for these types because the scar left by surgery will be more permanent than the birthmark itself. Port wine stains, however, do not disappear and have a tendency to appear on the face. Laser treatment can be used to lighten port wine stains, and special makeup can be used to conceal them.

Birthmark Removal

There are several techniques for birthmark removal. The most effective method for removing a particular birthmark is dependent on its type, its location, the age of the patient, and other factors. A dermatologist can examine the birthmark and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

The most common birthmark removal technique is surgical excision. This is best done by a plastic surgeon with experience in birthmark removal and who will be able to minimize the resulting scar. However, even a highly skilled surgeon cannot remove a birthmark without leaving a scar, so patients must weigh the cosmetic imposition of the potential scar against the existing birthmark when deciding whether or not to undergo surgery.

Hemangiomas will eventually begin to shrink and disappear on their own, but they can be treated with corticosteroids to speed up the process and promote shrinking of the birthmarks. This is especially important if their location threatens the development of an infant’s vision or other senses. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL™) and laser treatments can reduce or eliminate certain types of birthmarks for many people. A dermatologist can recommend the best course of treatment for each patient.

Consult a Dermatologist for More Information

To learn more about different kinds of birthmarks or birthmark removal options, contact a dermatologist near you today. The DocShop directory can help you locate a qualified physician in your area.

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