Focus on - Birthmarks

Many of us have birthmarks somewhere on our bodies. Birthmarks come in lots of different sizes, shapes and colours, and how much bother they cause us largely depend on whether they are somewhere noticeable and, if so, what type they are.

There are two kinds of birthmarks: vascular (which are clusters of enlarged blood vessels) and pigmented (which are overgrown pigment skin cells causing discolouration).

Vascular birthmarks include ‘hemangiomas’ (which may be present at birth or may develop later), port wine stains (which appear at birth for about three in every thousand babies) and macular stains (sometimes called ‘angel’s kisses’ or ‘stork bites’ – these usually disappear after babyhood and don’t require treatment). Treatments include steroids, lasers, surgical removal (though with the risk of blood loss) and camouflage-type make-up.essary.

Pigmented birthmarks include cafe au lait marks (light brown ‘stains’ on the skin), mongolian spots (which usually fade with age), congenital nevi (moles). Treatment for these types is normally with lasers.

If you have a birthmark that is causing you concern, perhaps because it is in an obvious place such as the face or neck, or perhaps because it is an awkward place that means it rubs on clothing, then the first step is to see your GP, who can refer you to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to discuss treatments. Cost of treatment is normally covered by the NHS.

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