Different types of birthmarks fall into two categories-pigmented birthmarks and vascular birthmarks. Pigmented birthmarks occur when you have more pigment on one part of your skin than another. Vascular birthmarks occur when the blood vessels beneath your skin clump together.
Not always true to their name, some birthmarks develop weeks after birth. Birthmarks can be permanent or fade over time. Some are harmless while others may require removal due to health or cosmetic reasons. Here are examples of common birthmarks in each category.
Cafe au Lait Spot
These birthmarks are light to dark brown in color. These common spots are flat, sharply demarcated, and permanent. Caused by an increase in melanin, these spots can form anywhere on the body. A few cafe au lait spots are considered normal. An individual with more than six of these spots may have a genetic condition such as neurofibromatosis.
Slate Gray Nevus
This nevus is a large, blue-gray birthmark that looks like a bruise. Previously referred to as mongolian blue spot, this birthmark is common in dark skinned babies, especially in Asians. This nevus usually appears on the lower back but can also form on the arms, buttocks, and legs. This birthmark requires no treatment and may eventually disappear.
This dark colored mole is present at birth and usually located on the scalp or trunk of the body. It can be as small as 2/3″ or span over 5.5″ and will grow with the child. This mole has been known to reach 8″ and may be hairy. Children born with this nevus, especially large ones, are at increased risk of developing cancer.
Hemangiomas are a cluster of small, tightly packed blood vessels. This type of birthmark is pink or red and grows during the first year of life. It recedes eventually and most children lose most of it by age ten. Treatment is not normally required. For cosmetic reasons, some hemangiomas require medication or laser treatment, mainly due to cosmetic reasons. Real physical and medical issues can arise due to hemangiomas located near the eye, in the mouth, in the throat, or near the groin.
This type of birthmark starts out light pink but becomes red or purple over time. Port-wine stains can occur anywhere on the body but most commonly form on the face or neck. Formed by dilated blood capillaries, this birthmark can cause the skin to thicken and may become more textured with age. This birthmark may occur due to Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome or Sturge-Weber syndrome. Port-wine stains are often treated with lasers.
Salmon Patches/Stork Bites
These flat patches are red or pink. These common birthmarks occur in 1/3 of all babies and are normally located above the hairline at the neck, between the eyes, or on the eyelids. Those on the face normally fade while those at the neck do not. Salmon patches do not require treatment.
Caused by dilated, abnormally formed veins, these birthmarks are red and can appear anywhere on the body. These birthmarks can even appear on the brain. These malformations grow slowly and will not shrink. Treatment is necessary for those with pain or impaired function.
“Slide Show: Birthmarks – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/birthmarks/sn00033.
“Giant Congenital Nevus: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001453.htm.