If you happen to see any discolouration on your skin that has been there from the time you were born, then the chances are that you have a birthmark. It is not something to be worried about as it is normally considered to be harmless but, in some instances, it can signify the presence of an underlying medical complication. In either case, it was always better to seek a professional advice when faced with such a situation.
Birthmarks can exist almost anywhere, on your face to any other part of the skin. The size, moreover, also varies from person to person. At times it will get larger with age while on the contrary there have been instances where it completely fades away leaving no visible signs.
This article is your firsthand guide to understanding the complexities of birthmarks. It will start by highlighting the causes followed by the common types and concluding on the medical techniques on getting rid of them.
The causes of Birthmarks
There have been a number of prevailing myths and legends that relate to the causes of birthmarks. Some tales have rather been surprising! As per one historical tradition, if a pregnant woman is unable to fulfil her cravings, the baby, as a result, is born with a visible birthmark.
The field of science, on the other hand, has rejected every such theory asserting that the underlying cause of birthmarks is still unknown. Studies are being conducted and a final conclusion still awaits. Yet some research findings have found a genetic linkage while other feel that that the probability of a birthmark occurring in a later stage of life is still possible.
Are Birthmarks Hereditary?
Some studies have confirmed that certain type of birthmarks is the consequence of gene mutation. Babies who have had post wine stains were known to be suffering from Kippel Trenaunay Syndrome. The disease particularly causes marks on the limb regions and the cause is attributed to the gene mutation.
In addition, Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a neurological genetic disorder also causes stains around the forehead and scalp region. However, this condition is not hereditary and may not be inherited by the children.
Birthmarks Appearing Late in Life?
Some people may experience blemishes and spots on the skin that can occur at any time after birth. However, a proper consensus among the medical scientists is still needed to confirm them as birthmarks.
The field of medical science has categorized birthmarks into two broad categories mainly:
Vascular birthmarks occur when there is some sort of structural disruption of the blood vessels in a certain region e.g. clustering of too many of them in one place or the width being wider than usual. While on the other hand, Pigmented birthmarks are a consequence of too many pigmented cells reproducing in an area. It is important to also note that the natural skin colour is due to these very cells.
Pigmented birthmarks are further classified into three main types as follows:
- Moles: Also known by their medical name: Congenital Nevi, can be found in three different colors mainly black, light brown or pink. They can be visible in any part of the body though, in the most reported cases, people will have a mole in their facial region. Having one in normal circumstances may not be of serious concern as it might disappear with time. Even, on the contrary, people go on to live a normal life with congenital nevi. However, consulting a professional should not be underscored as in rare cases, this type of birthmark may be a symptom of skin cancer.
- Café au Lait Spots: The English translation is coffee with milk. This birthmark with a rather unusual name has a pale brown color, similar to the one achieved when milk is added to black coffee! People with dark textures will have more visible birthmarks. They can occur in babies and normally last until the childhood age period. Then again, these marks are not of a serious concern however at times they may be linked with a condition called neurofibromatosis. The illness causing the development of tumours in the brain or the spinal region.
- Mongolian Blue Spots: Unlike the above-mentioned two types of pigmented birthmarks which can occur anywhere, Mongolian Blue Spots are commonly found in the back or the buttock area. For having a bluish grey texture, it is often misconstrued as a bruise. Yet again, these spots are not known to be harmful on their own and completely diminish at the age of 4 or 5.
Vascular Birthmarks also have three types:
- Salmon Patches: Sometimes referred as stroke bites, Salmon patches can affect either the eyes or the eyelid region. There have been reported cases of patches visible in the back region as well. These birthmarks are caused when blood vessels surround irregularly in a certain region leading to a pinkish red patch. No professional treatment is required as the marks will disappear gradually with time.
- Hemangiomas: People with Hemangiomas will report red or blue marks in the head or neck region. In the initial days, this vascular birthmark will appear to be in a very minuscule size however it is often known to grow with time. The fortunate side is the fact that the mark will completely fade away in puberty age. Although not linked with any serious medical illness, surgical removal might be recommended in rare cases to ensure smooth breathing process in children.
- Nervus Flammeus: Nervus Flammeus can appear anywhere in the body though, in most circumstances, red patches will appear in the facial or neck region. The color often darkens or gains a purplish texture with time. If left untreated (meaning by not surgically removed) then it starts to affect the skin, making it extremely dry and thick. Also known as post wine stains, Nervus Flammeus are the only type of birthmarks that have some sort of genetic association.
So far, when analyzing the types of birthmarks, it can be readily deciphered that in most cases, birthmarks require no treatment process as they will eventually fade with time. However, in some rare circumstances, when any of the bodily function is at risk of being disrupted, medical professionals will recommend certain removal techniques. The following table highlights that:
|Removal Procedure Type||What it does?|
|Laser Therapy||By using beams of light, that can be altered accordingly, laser therapy is often and should always be performed by a dermatologist and surgeon. It usually lessens the color of the spot or completely removes the patch (for post wine stain). Most therapies turn out to be successful, however, when going through one, local anaesthesia might be prescribed.|
|Beta Blockers||Beta blockers are recommended for people who have hemangiomas. Beta Blocker medication is usually taken orally, and the results turn out to be successful. It causes the blood vessels to shrink which hinders the blood flow to the affected region.|
|Surgical Procedure||In some cases, your dermatologist would recommend surgically removing hemangiomas or large moles. Local anaesthesia is carried out before the main surgery, and scalpels might be used for removal. If the birthmark happens to be of a significant size, then surgery might be done in several courses. Regardless, the procedure is successful in most of the cases.|