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What Causes Birthmarks In Babies?

When our little bundle of joy is born, the family members are often busy comparing the baby's facial features with that of the mother and the father. But apart from the facial features, there are certain marks present on the skin of the baby, often called birthmarks, which may or may not be hereditary.

What Are Birthmarks?

Birthmarks are characterised by discolouration or pigmentation of the skin, usually visible after a few days of birth. They may be of different shapes and may be placed on any area of the body. Different birthmarks also have different colours and may be raised or flat. These marks are usually harmless but irk the parents nevertheless.

Many parents do not take well to the fact that their newborns have pigmentations on their porcelain skin. They often associate these marks as skin problems that need treatment immediately. This is often a misconception. A majority of infants are born with birthmarks that are completely harmless and may need no medical attention at all. While some birthmarks are genetic and will be inherited by the baby through the genes of their parents, most of the other types of birthmarks are often due to various other scientific causes.

  • Types Of Birthmarks
  • Vascular birthmarks
  • Pigmented birthmarks
  • Do Birthmarks Go Away?
  • Treatment Options Available

Types Of Birthmarks

Based on their causes, birthmarks are often classified into two major types - vascular and pigmented.

Both these types of birthmarks have subtypes. Let us look into each of them in detail.

Vascular birthmarks:

Vascular birthmarks happen in areas of the skin when the blood vessels do not form properly. They are of three types-

1) Macular stains-

These are the most common forms of birthmarks and can easily be distinguished from the others. In case you have visited quite a number of newborns, you may often notice a faint red patch on their forehead, nose, eyelids or back of the neck. They are caused by dilation in capillaries. They are said to fade within a year or two but some macular birthmarks are said to last a lifetime.

2) Hemangiomas-

While moles are raised black spots which may appear anywhere on the body, hemangiomas are very similar to them. These birthmarks may appear on the surface of the skin or deeper below. They are usually raised but are bright red in colour. Most of these are noticeable and grow in size as the baby grows. They then start shrinking back. During rare occasions, they may leave behind scars which would need to be corrected medically. Due to their raised characteristics, they may interfere with the baby's sense of sight and smell if located close to the eyes or ears.

3) Port-wine stains-

Aptly named, port-wine stains often look like wine spilt on the skin. These are caused by the abnormal bleeding of the blood vessels in the inner surface of the skin. They are the most troublesome as they grow to be bigger in size and darker in colour as the baby grows. These are often spotted on the face, neck and other visible parts of the body such as arms and legs. They do not diminish over time and are usually treated.

Pigmented birthmarks:

Pigmented birthmarks are usually caused when a cluster of pigmented cells grow over a small region. Pigmented birthmarks are classified into three types-

1) Cafe-au-lait spots-

These spots are usually light brown to coffee in colour and are oval. Most of these birthmarks are noticed at birth. What is special about them is that they grow in number as the child grows. However, if the baby has more than five to six cafe-au-lait spots, it may be a sign of a genetic nerve disorder called neurofibromatosis.

2) Mongolian spots-

Mongolian spots are usually stopped on children with darker skin colour. They are very easy to identify. These flat bluish-grey patches on the back and buttocks are harmless and fade away with time.

3) Congenital nevi-

These birthmarks are commonly called moles. These are the ones that we are very familiar with. Moles may be large in size or small, raised or flat, brown or jet black. They are known to appear anywhere in the body. They may become smaller as the baby grows. Some moles may become dark and hairy after the child hits puberty. Moles that develop at later stages of life usually disappear with time but the ones present from birth last a lifetime.

Do Birthmarks Go Away?

Although most of the birthmarks are harmless, birthmarks present in the visible parts of the body may often result in low self-esteem in certain individuals. Most of the new parents are often worried that their child's birthmark may affect their way of life.

Before looking into the different options available to treat birthmarks, some of them go away on their own. While vascular birthmarks such as hemangiomas may resolve on their own, port wine stains may need medical attention. Moles are known to be permanent and as long as they do not cause problems in the day to day life of your child, it is better to let them be. Mongolian spots often are only age related and fade as the child grows.

Treatment Options Available

Most of the birthmarks pose no problem to your baby and may not need medical attention. But in cases where the birthmarks are posing a health problem, there are treatments available.

- Moles in unwanted places are most commonly removed through lasers or surgery.

- Cafe-au-lait spots are removed using a laser but if there is an underlying health condition, they resurface and may need to be properly treated.

- All vascular birthmarks, with the exception of macular stains, are easily treated with medications.

- Port wine stains too can be treated with laser, in which they are lightened, making them less visible.

- Hemangiomas are something that may concern young parents, especially if they are situated on top of the baby's head or other tricky places. Most of them may shrink back on their own as the baby grows. But if the spot is bigger, doctors may prescribe medication to help shrink it and then laser surgery can be performed in order to get rid of the scar.

A birthmark may come as a rude shock to most of the parents, who nurse the picture of a perfect baby. If you are dealing with a baby with easily visible birthmarks, it is important to deal with caution and accept them as just another part of their body.

Read more about: birth marks babies
Story first published: Friday, August 31, 2018, 15:05 [IST]