Birthmark

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Quick GuideIdentify Your Birthmark: Angel's Kiss, Strawberry Mark (Hemangiomas), Others

Identify Your Birthmark: Angel's Kiss, Strawberry Mark (Hemangiomas), Others

What are the characteristics of vascular birthmarks?

The color of vascular birthmarks ranges from light pink to dark purple, and they can be either flat or elevated. Their size is quite variable, as well. Certain types of vascular birthmarks can evolve and change after birth.

What causes birthmarks?

Most birthmarks are probably due to defective migration of cells during fetal development. Once these cells start to multiply, they produce tissue with the characteristics of their cell type though they are not where those cells typically are located.

Are any symptoms and signs associated with birthmarks?

Pigmented birthmarks, aside from their coloration, cause no symptoms. Vascular birthmarks of certain types can produce significant symptoms. The identification of the type of vascular birthmarks may be difficult and require certain advanced imaging techniques as well pathological examination of samples of the birthmark. Certain vascular birthmarks called hemangiomas can begin as flat lesions at birth but enlarge rapidly during the first few months of life. They may ulcerate and disappear slowly, leaving only a scar. If this type of lesion is situated adjacent to an important anatomical structure like an eye or mouth, it may need to be treated to hasten the natural resolution.

What disorders are associated with birthmarks?

There are a number of rare serious disorders that are associated with both pigmented (café au lait mark, for example) and vascular birthmarks. It would be appropriate that any infant with a birthmark is examined by a pediatrician to detect any of these uncommon conditions. Some of these disorders can be inherited, so affected families need to be educated as to their significance.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/15/2015

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