Birth Mark Removal
Birthmarks are growths that appear on the skin and are present at or shortly after birth. Many birthmarks fall into two categories, vascular birthmarks or pigmented birthmarks.
Birthmarks are common growths or lesions that appear on your skin at birth or shortly after birth. They can occur anywhere on your face, scalp, or body and can vary in color, size, appearance, and shape. Some birthmarks can be flesh-colored but may have a different texture than the rest of your skin.
Some birthmarks are permanent and may get larger over time. Others fade away completely.
Most birthmarks are harmless, but some indicate an underlying medical condition. In rare cases, birthmarks may be cancerous.
In some instances, birthmarks may be removed for cosmetic reasons.
You may have heard tales connecting birthmarks to unmet food cravings, but that’s a myth.
Birthmarks aren’t caused by anything that a pregnant woman does or doesn’t do during her pregnancy. The underlying reason why birthmarks form is unknown.
Some birthmarks are hereditary and run in families, but most aren’t. Very occasionally, some are caused by gene mutations.
For example, some babies born with a type of birthmark called port-wine stains (because they look similar to a splash of wine) may have a rare condition called Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome. This condition is caused by a genetic mutation that isn’t generally inherited.
Another rare condition, Sturge-Weber syndrome, also appears as port-wine birthmarks along a specific branch of nerves and is caused by a different gene mutation. It also doesn’t run in families and can’t be inherited.
Birthmarks refer to skin spots that are apparent at birth or shortly afterward. In rare cases, some birthmarks may appear on the skin during childhood. Other types of marks on your skin such as moles may occur later on in life but aren’t considered birthmarks.
- Pigmented birthmarks occur when there’s an overabundance of pigment cells, or melanocytes, in one area. Pigment cells are what give your skin its natural color.
- Vascular birthmarks occur if blood vessels in a particular area of your skin don’t form the way they should. For example, there may be too many blood vessels clustered in one area or the blood vessels may be wider than they should be.
Techniques for removing birthmarks include:
Laser therapy can remove or significantly lighten port-wine stains, making them less visible. This type of treatment is performed by a dermatologist or surgeon. It uses highly concentrated pulsing beams of light that can be modulated for strength.
Laser therapy may be most successful when it’s started in infancy but can also be used on older children and adults. You’ll usually need several treatments.
Laser treatments can be uncomfortable and may require a local anesthetic. They often produce permanent results. Temporary swelling or bruising may occur.
Beta-blockers are oral medications used to treat high blood pressure.
Propranolol is a type of beta-blocker that may also be used to reduce the size or appearance of hemangiomas. It works by shrinking the blood vessels and reducing blood flow. This causes the hemangioma to soften, fade, and shrink.
Another beta-blocker, timolol, can be applied topically and may have similar results.
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that can be taken orally or injected directly into birthmarks. They work directly in the blood vessels, helping to shrink the size of the birthmark.
Some birthmarks may be successfully treated via surgical removal. These include very deep hemangiomas which might damage the healthy tissue surrounding them. Some large moles may also be removed.
Birthmark removal is typically done on an outpatient basis and may even be done in a dermatologist’s office rather than a hospital. A doctor uses a small scalpel to remove the birthmark after administering local anesthesia. If the birthmark is large, it may be removed in sections over the course of several appointments.
Tissue expansion is another surgical technique that’s sometimes used to reduce the scarring left by surgical removal of birthmarks.
It requires the insertion of a balloon under the healthy skin located next to the birthmark. This causes new, healthy skin to grow as a type of flap. This flap is used to cover the area where the birthmark was previously. The balloon is then removed.
There are some side effects associated with birthmark removal. If surgery or shaving has been done, look for symptoms of infection including:
- fluid coming from the incision
In rare cases, medication taken to reduce birthmarks can cause side effects including:
- slowed heart rate
- constipation or diarrhea
- sleeping problems
Talk with your doctor immediately if your child is experiencing side effects.