Treatments for Birthmarks

Although most birthmarks are harmless, some are large enough that they require treatment. Several types of treatment are used, depending upon the type, severity and location of the individual birthmark.

What Types of Birthmarks Require Treatment?

There are two types of birthmarks: vascular birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks. Vascular birthmarks occur when blood vessels do not develop properly, creating red marks on the skin. Pigmented birthmarks are caused by overproduction of melanin in a specific area. In general, vascular birthmarks, particularly hemangiomas and port-wine stains, are most likely to require treatment. Hemangiomas are formed by a collection of small blood vessels, while port-wine stains occur when capillaries develop abnormally, creating a red mark on the skin.

Types of Treatment

Port-wine stains are red birthmarks that never disappear. As a child grows older, they can become thicker, with a pebbled surface. Since they usually occur on the face and neck, these birthmarks are highly visible, and can be uncomfortable and lead to self-consciousness. In some cases, they can also be quite large. Laser treatment can greatly reduce the appearance of port-wine stains.

A hemangioma is a large, red birthmark that often grows rapidly during the first few years of life, then disappears. If the hemangioma grows too large or too quickly, it can lead to medical problems, especially if it interferes with breathing, sight or makes it difficult for the child to eat. Sometimes hemangiomas occur internally, as well, leading to additional problems and complications. A hemangioma can be treated with lasers, steroid injections or surgery if necessary.

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