Get The Facts About Birthmarks
A birthmark is a patch of abnormally colored skin that develops before birth or during the early stages of infancy. Most birthmarks are non-cancerous and harmless. However, all discolored skin, especially involving moles or color changes, should be examined early on by a dermatologist to be on the safe side. Our dermatologists in Boardman and Howland, OH, can diagnose birthmarks as benign or malignant based on their appearance. We can also address your beauty concerns regarding abnormally pigmented or discolored skin.
Common Types Of Birthmarks
Each birthmark is as unique as the person who wears it. Some are smooth and skin-level, while others rise above the upper dermis layer. Discolored skin can also appear purple, tan, black, light blue, white, red, pink, or brown. The causes of birthmarks are mostly unknown, but classifications exist based on aesthetic characteristics.
A dermatologist can diagnose a birthmark based on its appearance. Most are harmless but still worth getting checked out. Moles or color changes in specific birthmarks also should be examined by a dermatologist.
Pigmented birthmarks are typically flat and smooth and either white, tan, or blue colored — the amount of melanin and its location in the skin determine the color of a pigmented birthmark. Commonly associated with these birthmarks are congenital nevi moles, which develop at birth. Whether pigmented birthmarks require dermatological treatment is contingent on color changes, size and shape of the moles and if they itch or bleed.
Congenital Nevi Birthmarks
Congenital nevi birthmarks are moles that are present at birth. Depending on their size, congenital nevi are sometimes associated with higher risks of skin cancer. For that reason, a mole that enlarges should be immediately brought to the attention of a dermatologist.
Macular stains, the most common type of vascular birthmark, are not pigment discolorations; they are caused by interior blood vessels that create light-red, skin-level marks. There are two types of macular stains. The first are Angel’s kisses. These appear at birth on the eyelids or between the brows and often fade by age 2. The second is stork bites, which tend to appear on the back of the neck and can last into adulthood. In general, macular stains cause few to no symptoms and do not require dermatological skin treatments, except for cosmetic reasons. Macular stains and port-wine stains were previously thought to be two variations of the same type of birthmark; now they are recognized as separate types.
Cafe-au-lait spots are oval-shaped tan or brown birthmarks. These are generally innocuous, yet the presence of multiple spots may signal a genetic disorder, neurofibromatosis, that is associated with abnormal nerve tissue growth.
Flat pink or purple birthmarks on the head, arms, or legs are known as port-wine stains, a birthmark caused by irregularly developed capillaries. In rare cases, these have been linked to increased risks of glaucoma (when they’re located on the eyelids) or kidney disorders, but most port-wine stains have no side effects. People with port-wine stains mostly schedule birthmark skin treatments for beauty reasons. However, it is also beneficial to have a physician look into the birthmarks’ health implications, even if most cases are benign and symptom free.
Hemangioma are vascular birthmarks caused by noncancerous growths of blood vessels. They appear as minute, raised discolorations after birth and can grow to a few centimeters in the first year. Once they reach their peak sizes, hemangioma shrink slowly over several years, and 90 percent disappear on people by age 9. Hemangioma can form in sensitive areas on the body, such as the lips, nose, or genitalia. If the birthmarks interfere with a person’s daily functions, a dermatologist can reduce a birthmark’s size by prescribing corticosteroid medication, laser treatment, or surgery.
Dermatological Treatments For Pigmentation Disorders
After examining a patch of abnormally pigmented skin, a dermatologist may conclude the discoloration is symptomatic of a pigmentation disorder that requires treatment. Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center treats multiple pigmentation disorders, including albinism, melasma, and vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder that causes the destruction of melanocytes, or pigment cells that add skin color. Regions of the body affected by vitiligo appear pale or even white. The cause of vitiligo is often autoimmune disease, diabetes, or thyroid problems. Doctors have yet to find a cure. However, a dermatologist can prescribe corticosteroids, topical ointments, and ultraviolet light therapy to minimize the symptoms.
Melasma is a disorder that causes brown or tan discolorations on the face. It can occur in men but is most common in women who are pregnant or taking hormone supplements or birth control pills. When the symptoms of melasma persist, a dermatologist can prescribe medications for treatment.
Albinism is a genetic disorder that causes the skin to be discolored (lighter) due to an absence of melanin pigment. No known cure exists for albinism. However, a dermatologist can prescribe sunscreen and other products to help protect the skin.
Birthmark & Pigmented Skin Treatments
Whether your concerns are related to health or beauty, Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center offers comprehensive treatments for birthmark or pigmented skin disorders.
Our dermatologists start by diagnosing which type of birthmark or pigmented skin condition you have and determining whether it poses risks for your health. If you face health risks due to a skin condition, we devise a plan to address those using the most recent medical treatments, such as medication, topical treatments, or surgery.
We also address the aesthetic side of skin care. If you have a benign birthmark or condition but are unsatisfied with its appearance, we can propose solutions to help you achieve the look you have always wanted. Healthy and beautiful skin is a phone call away. Contact Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center to learn more.