What Causes Birthmarks

What Causes BirthmarksDo you have birthmarks or does your child have them? Do you want to know what causes birthmarks? Birthmarks are persistent visible lesions on the skin that are usually visible at birth or near birth.

There are so many different types of birthmarks that are visible amongst newborns. The most common of these are the vascular birthmarks that are caused by the presence of abnormal blood vessels under the skin.

Pigmented birthmarks (similar to freckles) are also common amongst newborns with a darker skin complexion. Unlike vascular birthmarks, pigmented birthmarks are caused due to presence of a cluster of pigmented cells i.e. melanocytes under the skin.

What Causes Birthmarks?

Experts still haven’t been able to find out how and why birthmarks are caused. Some children have them whereas others don’t. There is no single factor that can be considered as the cause of birthmarks. However, there are lots of theories proposed depending on the type of birthmark.

Birthmark Types

There are several types of birthmarks. We’ll talk about some of the most common types here…

1. Vascular birthmarks

Vascular birthmarks are naturally caused due to presence of an abnormally large number of blood vessels under the skin. These birthmarks are often harmless and tend to disappear naturally within a couple of weeks after birth. However, some types of vascular birthmarks may persist for a couple of years.

2. Pigmented Birthmarks

Pigmented birthmarks are birthmarks caused due to presence of a large number of melanocytes – the pigment cells under the skin. Like vascular birthmarks, pigmented birthmarks are quite harmless and tend to heal naturally after a period of time.

3. Cafe au lait spot

Cafe au lait spot is a type of birthmark that is usually light brown or milky coffee in color. These birthmarks are often oval in shape and present at birth or occur immediately after birth. Most of these birthmarks tend to be persistent and don’t fade.

4. Congenital Melanocytic Nevus

Congenital Melanocytic Nevus is a type of birthmark that commonly occurs in the head and neck (but can occur in other areas too). It is light brown amongst fair-skinned individuals and blackish amongst darker-skinned people.

The shape of these birthmarks is quite irregular. They tend to become smaller as the child grows. Congenital Melanocytic Nevus can also be classified as a form of pigmented birthmarks.

5. Telangeiectatic Nevus

Telangiectatic nevus is a type of birthmark that’s also commonly known as salmon patch or stork mark. It is caused by dilations in the capillaries (the blood vessels). The appearance of these birthmarks is often reddish in color and occurs in patches. In most cases, these birthmarks tend to fade after a couple of years.

6. Port Wine Stain

Port Wine Stain is a type of birthmark that mainly occurs amongst individuals with a fair skin complexion. It consists of red and purple marks that are most commonly visible in the face. The cause of these birthmarks is often abnormal bleeding of blood vessels in the affected area.

Special treatment may be required for new-borns whose port wine stains appear near the eyelid area. Almost 10% of all children that have port wine stain type birthmarks tend to have a mark in their eyelid area which requires immediate treatment.

7. Silvermark

Silvermark is a type of hereditary birthmark that consists of a silver streak of air. It is often found at the place where the hairline and the forehead meet.

8. Mongolian Spots

Mongolian spots are a type of birthmark that consists of blue-gray marks which occur commonly amongst dark sinned individuals. In most cases, they appear over the lower back or the buttocks. They tend to fade naturally after a couple of years.

9. Hemangiomas

Hemangiomas often consist of a red mark that appears small and flat at first. They may grow and become bigger as the child grows. In most cases, their growth slows down and they tend to fade after a couple of years (by the time the child reaches the age of four or five).

Complications of Birthmarks

In most cases, birthmarks are harmless and tend to fade naturally after a couple of years. However, certain types of birthmarks can lead to development of skin cancer in the near future.

For example, the Congenital Melanocytic Nevus birthmarks are known to trigger skin cancer in the future (especially when these birthmarks are quite large).

Birthmarks present near the eyelids are the most dangerous and will require immediate attention. Leaving birthmarks around the eyes untreated may impair the child’s vision and could lead to glaucoma in the future.

Treatment of Birthmarks

Since most birthmarks are harmless and fade naturally, treatment is not required for birthmarks. But birthmarks near the child’s eye or cancerous birthmarks will require immediate attention.

Treatment methods for birthmarks include…

1. Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are often injected into the birthmark (amongst newborns) or taken orally. They prevent the growth of the birthmarks and help shrink them. Corticosteroids work on many types of birthmarks mainly hemangioma.

2. Interferon Alfa-12

Interferon Alfa-12 is an alternative medication which may be given to the child if the birthmark doesn’t respond to corticosteroids.

3. Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is recommended for birthmarks around the eyes and certain types of stubborn birthmarks such as port wine stains.

4. Surgery

Surgery is used as a last-resort option when none of the other treatment methods work and the birthmark is posing a serious threat to the child’s health.