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Massachusetts Eye and Ear
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Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery

Birthmarks and Other Skin Anomalies

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Birthmarks and other types of skin anomalies occur when blood vessels develop abnormally. They are relatively common, occurring in approximately 10 percent of all babies. Most are harmless, but some are serious and require treatment.

  • Hemangiomas: These are vascular birthmarks, which often become visible a few days to a few weeks after birth. They often appear as “blemishes” over any part of the head, neck, body, and limbs, becoming more visible and raised over time. These can grow in size over several months, often stopping around one year of age.
  • Port Wine Stains (PWS): These are pink or dark red flat vascular birthmarks, which are present at birth and are commonly found on the head and neck. They will be present for the lifetime of the individual and will not go away unless treated. The abnormally enlarged blood vessels, which are present in the PWS, will continue to increase in size throughout a patient's life.
  • Nevus of Oto and Ito: These are blue-gray patches on the face and shoulder consisting of pigment in the dermis. These pigments have remained in the dermis instead of the epidermis where they are normally found. These lesions can either be congenital or acquired.
  • Café au Lait (CAL): These spots are hyper-pigmented lesions of varying sizes, which may be light to dark brown. The presence of these lesions may be associated with congenital conditions such as neurofibromatosis. Typically, CAL spots are present at birth, although they may be difficult to notice. By the time a child is two or three years old, CAL spots are clearly visible. The size and number of CAL spots increase with age.

3Common Symptoms

  • Noticeable marks on the skin, usually red or brown in color
  • Blemishes that grow over time
  • Blue-gray patches on the face and shoulder

Diagnosis and Treatment

Birthmarks and skin anomalies have specific treatment options based on each type.

Visit Our Laser Center

The Carolyn and Peter Lynch Center for Laser and Reconstructive Surgery is an interdisciplinary center dedicated to the treatment of patients who require dermatological care and/or facial plastic reconstructive surgery.

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