Birthmarks come in many shapes, sizes and colors. You may see a flat or raised mark that is the size of a pinhead or cover a large area of the face, body, arms or legs. Most birthmarks fall somewhere in between. A birthmark can be pink, red, tan, brown, or any other color. Some look like a bruise while others look like a stain on the skin.
Some birthmarks are common. It is estimated that between 3% and 10% of babies are born with a type of birthmark called a hemangioma. Other birthmarks, such as port-wine stain, are less common.
The vast majority of birthmarks pose no long-term health problems. Certain types of birthmarks, such as a salmon patch or hemangioma, often fade on their own. Others, such as a mole, tend to remain on the skin for life.
One thing most pediatric birthmarks have in common is they are usually harmless. However, what you think is a birthmark could be the first sign of a skin disease. It is wise to have board certified dermatologist, like Dr. Monique S. Cohn, examine it and keep a close eye on it over the early years of your baby’s growth.
What causes birthmarks?
Most birthmarks form by chance alone and are not linked to other medical problems. Some specific types of birthmarks, however, can be part of a larger collection of problems called a syndrome. Birthmarks are not caused by anything that mothers did or didn’t do while pregnant, nor are they caused by any type of birth trauma.
Some birthmarks, including strawberry marks, may turn into an open sore and develop an infection if they are in an area that is frequently irritated. People with a giant congenital melanocytic nevus have a 5–10% chance of developing melanoma, which is an aggressive skin cancer. If a port-wine stain occurs around the eye, there is a higher risk of developing glaucoma.
If the birthmark causes health problems, or if a person feels strongly about getting rid of it, Dr. Cohn may recommend treatment and she may suggest one of the following options:
- Propranolol: An oral prescription taken by mouth which helps prevent the further development of hemangiomas by narrowing the existing blood vessels and preventing new ones from forming.
- Corticosteroids: An injection of corticosteroids into some types of birthmarks which can also be given to an infant orally. This can help shrink certain birthmarks or prevent any further growth.
- Interferon alpha-12: If a corticosteroid does not have the desired effect, Dr. Cohn may suggest this medication instead.
- Laser therapy: This type of therapy is commonly used for port-wine stains and other birthmarks that are close to the skin’s surface.
- Surgery: If other therapies are not effective and the birthmark is causing a medical problem, Dr. Cohn may recommend surgery.
Treatment options depend on several factors, including the type, location, and severity of the birthmark.
By making an appointment with Dr. Monique S. Cohn as soon as you notice the birthmark, you’ll know what to expect. Dr. Cohn can also tell you whether treatment is recommended, be it a birthmark or skin condition. Contact Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center at 330-425-7600 to set up an appointment in Twinsburg.