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What Are Birthmarks? What Are Their Different Types?

4 min read


What Are Birthmarks & Its Different Types?

While most of us do not think twice about our own birthmarks except when giving it as identification marks in passport and other identity cards, when it comes to birthmarks on our kids, we tend to worry too much. We are concerned about the size, color, location of the mark and question ourselves if it is a birthmark or some skin condition to worry about. So here we are trying to clear up all your questions and doubts on birthmarks.

What Are Birthmarks?

As the name suggests, birthmarks are marks that appear on the skin of your baby at birth or in the weeks immediately following birth. There are two kinds of birthmarks:

  1. Vascular birthmarks, which are caused by irregular blood vessels under skin; and
  2. Pigmented birthmarks, which are caused by too much pigments in the skin

Birthmarks can be brown, black, pink or red in color, and can appear at any place in the body.

Are Birthmarks Harmful?

Most birthmarks are harmless and would not cause any harm in the future too. However, at times, they might be a sign of some underlying condition (Read the different types of birthmarks in the below section and assess which one does your baby have). And even when it does not indicate an underlying medical problem, birthmarks can still cause emotional trauma if they appear on face and are big enough to impact the cosmetic look.

What Are The Different Types Of Birthmarks?

While the birthmarks can be broadly classified as vascular or pigmented, there are 10 different kinds of birthmarks within these categories. Some of them are more prevalent in Caucasian kids and not seen frequently among Asians. Similarly, some of them are observed more in Asians.

    1. Mongolian spot: This is more common among Asians and Indians as it is prevalent among dark skinned babies. It is harmless and appears as a dark bruise in the lower back or over the buttocks. It fades with time and usually disappears by the time the child is four
    2. Pigmented Nevi Mark: This is “mole” for us laymen. This is very common with one in every 100 babies being born with at least one of them. Many of them get it even after birth. They can be brown or black in color and vary in size and shape. It can occur anywhere on the skin and usually lasts a life time. They are also harmless and requires no treatment whatsoever
    3. Café au lait spot: This is another harmless birthmark which can appear anywhere on the body. They are characterized by areas of brown skin, darker than the skin color. They usually grow bigger as child grows. Your child might have one or two of them, and this is normal. However, if he has more than 4, then it is an indication that he might have a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis. Again, in many cases, neurofibromatosis is harmless. But it can also cause lot of problems in certain cases. So it is best to check with your baby’s doctor
    4. Congenital melanocytic nevus: This can be best described as a large mole. They will be light brown in color if your baby is fair skinned and black in color if your baby is dark skinned. They can be of any shape, but are more often irregular in shape. The texture can be lumpy. While the cancer risk in most cases is minimal, if the size of the mole is very large, then there is higher probability of cancer
    5. Port Wine Birthmark: This is a vascular birthmark and hence a dark red or purple tinge. It can be as small as few millimeters and as large as several centimeters. Technically, they can appear anywhere on the body, but it is most commonly seen in face and neck region. This is, unfortunately, not a harmless birthmark. In many cases, it points towards abnormalities in the eye and in some cases, even brain problems. It should not be left untreated

baby with Hemangioma

  1. Hemangioma: They are red and raised above the skin – making it look almost like a strawberry. They will grow rapidly in the first six months then start fading. In majority of the cases, the child will lose them by the 7th year and requires no treatment. Sometimes it might affect the child’s vision, breathing or feeding and in those cases the doctor might suggest treatment
  2. Venous Malformations: These are rare appearances of deeply tangled blood vessels. They are bigger in size and more raised above the skin than regular vascular birthmarks. Since they do not fade away with time, they usually requires medication and treatment
  3. Dysplastic Nevi: This is otherwise called as atypical moles. These are moles that appear in large numbers and covers considerable area of skin. There is a high probability of this developing into melanoma, so immediate medical attention is advised
  4. Nevus Sebaceous: Watch out for this one. Although rare, it can develop into basal cell skin cancer at a later stage. The good news is that, it can be surgically removed at an early age, thereby wiping out the chances of cancer. They are appear mostly on scalps or faces and has a yellow flat plaque like appearance
  5. Telangiectatic nevus: This is another vascular birthmark and is caused by expansion of blood capillaries. It is often called a salmon path because of its shape. Other names include “angel kiss” (when it appears on face) and “stork bite” (when it appears behind the neck). They usually fade with years

So clearly there are many different kinds of moles, many of them harmless, some of them may require medical intervention. While there is no need to panic, it is advisable to understand different kinds of moles, and watch out for them on your child’s skin.

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