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What are birthmarks?

Birthmarks are areas of discolored and/or raised skin that are apparent at birth or within a few weeks of birth. Birthmarks are made up of malformed pigment cells or blood vessels. About 10 in every 100 babies have vascular birthmarks (birthmarks made up of blood vessels).

Although the cause of birthmarks is not known, most of them are benign (non-cancerous) and do not require treatment. Babies with birthmarks should be examined and diagnosed by a physician.

What are the most common types of vascular birthmarks?

The following are the most common types of vascular birthmarks:

  • Flat not elevated stains ("angel's kisses" or "stork bites") - the most common type of vascular birthmark, characterized by pink to red marks that may appear anywhere on the body.

    • "Angel's kisses" - marks located on the forehead and eyelids, which usually disappear after age 2 years.

    • "Stork bites" - marks on the back of the neck, which may last into adulthood.

  • Hemangioma - a common vascular birthmark. Hemangiomas become visible within the first few weeks of life and continue to grow rapidly for about six to nine months. Then, they gradually lose this red color and also shrink. They are called strawberry hemangiomas.

  • Port-wine stains - a port-wine stain, also called a nevus flammeus, is a flat, pink, red, or purple mark that appears at birth, often on the face, arms, and legs, and continues to grow as the child grows. Port-wine stains do not go away and often require treatment if located on the eyelid or forehead. Port-wine stains involving the face may cause eye problems.