Birthmarks and Other Skin Pigmentation Problems (cont.)
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As might be expected, this type of abnormal skin coloration will appear at birth or in just a few weeks following birth. It's important to remember that most birthmarks are noncancerous, though a doctor should examine your child if he or she is born with abnormally colored skin or develops birthmarks shortly after birth. Certain birthmarks described below can pose health risks.
Most pigmented birthmarks will be flat and smooth and may range in color from white to tan to blue. There are several types of pigmented birthmarks, including Mongolian spots -- bruised or bluish in color, typically appearing on buttocks; cafe-au-lait spots -- light brown; and typical moles that appear at birth, which are also called congenital nevi. Moles should be monitored for bleeding, color, shape, or size changes, or itching or bleeding.
These are a type of birthmark that may appear anywhere on the body as a light red, flat marks. Macular stains are the most common type of vascular (developing from blood vessels) birthmark. These marks can come in two forms known commonly as Angel's kisses or stork bites.
Because these marks are often mild, there is no treatment necessary.
Hemangiomas are caused by many tiny blood vessels bunched together and are raised off of the skin. They can vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. Hemangiomas can grow very rapidly through the first year of a child's life. Most hemangiomas will slowly go away in a few years.
Most hemangiomas will go away on their own; roughly 50% resolve by age 5, 70% by age 7 and 90% by age 9.
Some hemangiomas may be near the eye, nose, lips or genitalia. Hemangiomas in these sensitive areas need to be treated so that they don't interfere with seeing, breathing, eating, or defecating. These hemangiomas can also break down or ulcerate easily, becoming very painful. Reasons to treat hemangioma include problems with functions (such as sight, eating, hearing, or defecation), ulceration, or pain. Hemangiomas can be treated in different ways, each of which carries its own risks.
Corticosteroid medication, which can be injected or taken orally, is one option for treating hemangiomas. Risks associated with corticosteroid medication include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, poor growth, or cataracts. If corticosteroids fail, there are other medications such as propranolol that may be an option.
Certain hemangiomas can also be treated with lasers to stop them from growing. Risks associated with that treatment include ulceration and scarring.
In some cases, a hemangioma can also be removed with surgery. Other times, a combination of these approaches is the most beneficial treatment.
Port-wine stains are caused by abnormal development of blood vessels (capillaries) and last a lifetime. The port-wine stain (also known as nevus flammeus) appears as a flat, pink, red or purple mark, and can occur on the face, trunk, arms, or legs.
If you or your child has a port-wine stain present on eyelids, this is thought to pose an increased risk of glaucoma, an eye disease associated with increased pressure in the eyes that can lead to blindness if it's not treated.
Doctors have tried many ways to treat port wine stains, including radiation, tattooing, freezing, dermabrasion, or sclerotherapy. Laser treatment is the preferred treatment because it is the only method that destroys capillaries in the skin without causing damage to the rest of the skin.
Port-wine stains may be seen in certain medical disorders, including Sturge-Weber syndrome, with symptoms that include port wine stains on the face, vision problems, convulsions, mental retardation and perhaps even paralysis; and Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome which may include symptoms of many port wine stains, varicose veins and/or too much bone and soft tissue growth. Each of these syndromes is very rare.
Reviewed on 6/1/2012
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