Port Wine Stain Birthmarks in Babies – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

6 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Port Wine Stain Baby

Port wine stain birthmarks in babies are a very common condition where the baby gets a permanent birthmark either on the face or on the limbs. About 3 in every 1000 babies get the port wine stain as a birthmark. In this condition, the birthmark looks like someone has spilled some wine over that particular area. Port wine stain usually looks pink in color at birth but gradually becomes darker as the baby grows. Though the port wine stain does not expand on its own, the area of the stain can enlarge naturally with the growth of the baby.

The port-wine stain, though apparently harmless, can seriously impact the self-confidence of your baby in later life. Thus, you need to know about the port wine stain and how to help your baby deal with it. Here you will get to know about the port wine stain, its causes, symptoms, and diagnosis. Here you will also get to know the complications and treatment options of port wine stains in babies. So, let’s dig deep into it.

In This Article 

What is a Port Wine Stain in Babies?

A port wine stain is a particular type of birthmark that looks like a stain of wine on the body. As its name suggests, the color of the port wine stain is usually pink or maroon just like a fine wine. The area of the port wine stain remains flat at birth but can gradually get thick and bumpy with time. It is a permanent birthmark that develops generally on the face, head, and limbs of a newborn. Its clinical name is Nevus Flammeus.

Port wine stain birthmarks usually do not cause any harm or suggest any underlying disease. But the location and the size of the stain can cause embarrassment and a lack of self-confidence in your baby. In rare cases, port wine stains on the face can indicate Sturge-Weber syndrome or cause glaucoma.

Signs Of Port-Wine Stain Birthmarks In Babies

Port Wine Stain Signs

By looking at the signs of the port wine stain birthmark one can easily distinguish it from other birthmarks or skin problems. The signs of port wine stain birthmarks in babies are

1. Color of The Birthmarks

These birthmarks appear as pink, purple, or reddish spots on the skin with clear borders of where the spot starts and ends.

2. Area of Appearance

This spot will occur generally on the face, scalp, neck, arms, and legs though it can occur in other parts of the body too.

3. Texture 

The area of the port wine stain usually remains smooth and even. But it can get thicker and feel like there are pebbles under the skin.

4. Size of the Birthmarks

The size of this birthmark enlarges with the growth of the baby but its proportion remains the same.

Causes Of Port Wine Stains In Babies

Port wine stains are vascular birthmarks that occur due to some issues in the amalgamation of the capillaries. This type of birthmark occurs due to any abnormal distribution of blood vessels named hemangiomas. The particular reason that causes this abnormal distribution of blood vessels is still unknown. In this condition, the affected blood vessels, particularly the capillaries get dilated or enlarged and the extra blood present in those vessels turns the skin maroon.

Diagnosing Port-Wine Stain Birthmarks

Port wine stain diagnosis

Port wine stain is generally diagnosed at birth. If not then you can go to a dermatologist. A dermatologist can often diagnose port wine stains just by looking at the affected skin. In general, the port wine stain is only a cosmetic issue and does not indicate any serious health problem.

But in case the doctor suspects any issues such as the Sturge weber syndrome, they can prescribe tests including

  • Eye test if the port wine stain is above or near the eye
  • Imaging tests such as CT scans and X-rays
  • Skin biopsy

Complications Of Port Wine Stains in Babies

Complications related to port wine stains are

  • Inferiority complex due to the deformed appearance of the birthmarks
  • Dryness on and around the birthmarks that may require regular care in the form of moisturization
  • Increased risk of glaucoma due to the extra pressure on the eye which can lead to permanent vision loss without timely treatment 
  • Neurological problems such as Sturge-Weber syndrome that can cause eye problems, migraine, and seizures and disrupt the learning capacity of the baby.
  • Increased risk of contracting nonmelanoma and Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer in cases of extensive sun exposure according to a study published by NIH.
  • Risk of bleeding more than other parts of the body in case of any accidental cut or injury.

Treatment Options For Port Wine Stain Birthmarks In Babies

One can live with a port wine stain without any treatment. But a treatment becomes necessary in case of

  • High risk of bleeding, infection, and trauma associated with it
  • Thick and bumpy skin disfigurement that causes problems in daily life
  • Lower self-esteem and hindrance in socialization

The most useful treatment of port wine stain birthmark in babies is laser therapy. According to a study published by Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, Laser therapy helps the blood vessels causing the port wine stain to shrink, and thus the outer color of the affected area fades after a laser treatment.

The earlier you conduct the laser treatment the better will be its result in hiding the stain. This is because in younger patients the blood vessels are smaller and the stain is lighter. You can start laser treatment for port wine stain any time after your baby crosses 6 months.

Laser therapy is a brief treatment that will hardly take 10 minutes per session. After laser therapy, the affected skin can turn red and sore similar to a sunburn. Doctors can even provide numbing cream or spray for ease. For small babies’ general anesthesia is used so that they can sleep through the entire treatment.

When to See The Doctor?

Consulting Doctor

Though port wine stains are mostly harmless you need to confirm it from the doctor. You need to seek a doctor’s advice, especially in the case of

  • Presence of port wine stains on the forehead and near the eyes
  • Irritation and itchiness on the skin
  • Pain, bleeding, and infection on the skin
  • The size or thickness of the stain increases rapidly

So, most babies do not face any problem due to port wine stains especially if it is not on their faces. You can easily hide it under the cloth or use cosmetic products to lighten the stain and it will be barely noticeable. But you may need to go for a few tests and treatments if the port wine stain is on the face of your baby. Also, prepare your baby from the beginning to deal with all the stares and criticisms they may get due to the port wine stain. Make them accept the port wine stain as their own unique and beautiful feature.

Port wine stains in babies are a very common type of birthmark. The wine-like color on the skin differentiates this birthmark from others. Know more about port wine stains in babies here.


1. Is a Port-Wine Stain on The Face Genetic?

No, port wine stain is not a genetic condition, irrespective of where the marks appear. These stains are birthmarks and can occur due to a genetic mutation that results in the dilation of the blood vessels. This is not a genetically inherited condition.

2. Is Port-Wine Stain Benign or Malignant?

Port wine stains are benign in most cases. But in some cases, it can be malignant if it occurs on the forehead and eyes of the baby. Nonmelanoma and Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer can also develop rarely in the port wine stains.

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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