What Are Vascular Birthmarks?

Vascular birthmarks are an oftentimes benign condition that nonetheless require medical evaluation in order to rule out the risk for more serious disorders. However, even if the birthmarks are found to be medically harmless, their appearance can cause distress to the person with these marks and may be cosmetically treated.

The Symptoms

Vascular birthmarks are most often present with a person from birth or may appear within the first few years of the child's birth. Some such birthmarks fade as the child matures, but most do not. They are often dark red, purple or "port wine" in color and may or may not form small blisters later in life. They are most often spread across the face, although they can appear on other parts of the body as well.

The Cause

The cause of vascular birthmarks is dilated capillaries in the skin. Capillaries are blood vessels, the smallest type of blood vessels in the skin, and are responsible for the flow of blood, oxygen, water, nutrients and waste material in the skin.

There is no behavior in a pregnant mother or in the child herself that causes a child to develop these types of birthmarks. However, there may be an increased likelihood for children whose family members also have the birthmarks to have the birthmarks as well.

Some vascular birthmarks may cause serious harm, especially if located in pressure-sensitive areas such as the eyelids and forehead, so a thorough medical evaluation is a must as soon as possible for any child with the condition. However, treatment of most birthmarks is purely a cosmetic issue.