Birthmarks/Pigmented Skin

What is a birthmark?

Typically, pigmentation problems develop later in life; usually associated with sun exposure. Birthmarks are different. They are present at the time a child is born, or appear soon thereafter. The size, shape, and color of birthmarks vary widely. Some are flat, and some are raised. A birthmark is usually harmless, but it should be evaluated by a dermatologist to be sure.

Causes of birthmarks

There are two different types of birthmarks. Vascular birthmarks result from excess or abnormal blood vessels, and pigmented birthmarks result from an excess of skin pigment. The exact cause of this skin condition is not yet known, though heredity seems to be a factor. You may have heard that birthmarks are related the mother’s diet during pregnancy. This is a myth with no scientific merit.

Vascular birthmarks

  • Muscular strains – These marks are usually light red, and develop on the neck, back of the head, or forehead. This is the most common type of birthmark, and it is known by names such as “stork bites”, “angel kisses” or “salmon patches”.
  • Hemangiomas (strawberry marks) – There usually develop of the face or neck, and they are red in color. They may develop deep beneath the skin, or superficially.
  • Port wine stains – These often develop on the arms, legs, face, or neck. As a child grows, port wine stains increase in size proportionately. They usually darken over time.

Pigmented birthmarks

  • Moles – Most people develop one or more moles at some point in life. When moles are present at the time of birth, it is called congenital nevi.
  • "Café-au-lait” spots – These flat, brown patches were named for their resemblance to the color of the popular coffee beverage.
  • Mongolian spots – These marks are blue-gray in color and flat. They often appear in areas such as the back or buttocks, and they are most common in infants of Asian, African, or American Indian decent.
Many birthmarks tend to fade over time. However, if your child finds a particular birthmark to be embarrassing, treatment is available at Dr. W Dermatology. Call us at 281 771-0494 and schedule an appointment to visit our Katy or Houston office.