Birthmarks: What are Port-Wine Stains?

Port-wine stains are a type of vascular birthmarks. This type of birthmark consists of both superficial and much deeper blood vessels in the skin that result in a red or purple blotchy appearance. While a port-wine stain birthmark is not generally harmful, it may a symptom of a serious disease such as Sturge-Weber syndrome or Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome. While such a condition is rare, it is still important that a physician examines any birthmark to be certain that it is not a symptom of a greater problem.


The port-wine birthmark was so named because of its coloration. The color is generally the deep red or purplish color of port wine, hence the name.


In most cases, port-wine birthmarks are located on the face. Port-wine stain birthmarks are often seen on the forehead, the cheeks, the chin and the head. However, a port-wine birthmark may appear anywhere on the body.


Port-wine stains do not generally spread but rather may deepen in color with age. Children and infants may have port-wine stains in a pale pink color. As they grow, the color will typically become a deeper pink, then transition into a reddish or purple color. While port-wine stains do not typically spread, their consistency may change as a person ages. Adults may experience a thickening of the lesion, or in some cases, the growth of new bumps within the birthmark, making the surface of the port-wine stains irregular where it may have been relatively smooth in the past.

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