Birthmarks

Definition:
Birthmarks are areas of discolored skin that are on a baby’s body at birth or that show up within a few months after delivery. Over 80 percent of babies have some kind of birthmark. Some endure for life, while others fade away over time.

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Most birthmarks fall into one of two categories:

1.vascular  Vascular birthmarks are caused by blood vessels that have accumulated below the surface of the skin. They range in color from pink to red to bluish, depending on the depth of the blood vessels….click to see

2.Pigmented birthmarks — usually brown, gray, bluish, or black — result from an abnormal development of pigment cells…...click to see

Types:
A number of different types of birthmarks are known that include, but are not limited to, stork bites, Mongolian blue spots, strawberry marks, café au lait spots, congenital melanocytic nevi, and port-wine stains.

Café au lait spot:
While these birthmarks may occur anywhere on the body, they are most commonly oval in shape and light brown, or milk coffee, in color. These birthmarks may be present at birth, or appear in early childhood, and do not fade with age. One or two on an individual is common;however, four or more may be an indicator of neurofibromatosis.

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Congenital melanocytic nevus:
Congenital melanocytic nevus is a type of melanocytic nevus (or mole) found in infants at birth. Occurring in about 1% of infants in the United States, it is located in the area of the head and neck 15% of the time, but may occur anywhere on the body. It may appear as light brown in fair-skinned people, to almost black in darker-skinned people. Coming in a variety of sizes and appearances, they may be irregular in shape and flat, or raised and lumpy in appearance and feel.
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Mongolian blue spot:

A Mongolian blue spot is a benign flat congenital birthmark with wavy borders and irregular shape, most common among East Asians and Turks (excluding Turkish people), and named after Mongolians. It is also extremely prevalent among East Africans and Native Americans.  Authentic Mongolian blue spots do not disappear before puberty, and last well into adulthood. The most common color is blue, although they can be blue-gray, blue-black or even deep brown.
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Mongolian spot visible on six-month-old baby

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The Mongolian spot is a congenital developmental condition exclusively involving the skin. The blue colour is caused by melanocytes, melanin-containing cells, that are deep under the skin. Usually, as multiple spots or one large patch, it covers one or more of the lumbosacral area (lower back), the buttocks, flanks, and shoulders.  It results from the entrapment of melanocytes in the dermis during their migration from the neural crest to the epidermis during embryonic development.

Among those who are not aware of the background of the Mongolian spots, it may sometimes be mistaken for a bruise indicative of child abuse

Port-wine stain, or Nevus flammeus:

Port-wine stains are present at birth and range from a pale pink in color, to a deep wine-red. Irregular in appearance, they are usually quite large, and caused by a deficiency or absence in the nerve supply to blood vessels. This causes the blood vessels to dilate, and blood to pool or collect in the affected area. Over time, port-wine stains may become thick or develop small ridges or bumps, and do not fade with age. Such birthmarks may have emotional or social repercussions.
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.Port-wine stain visible on the head of Mikhail Gorbachev

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Port-wine stains occur in 0.3% of the population, equally among males and females. They frequently express unilaterally, i.e., on only one side, not crossing the midline of the body. Often on the face, marks on the upper eyelid or forehead may be indicative of a condition called Sturge-Weber syndrome. Additionally, port-wine stains in these locations may be associated with glaucoma and seizures.

Stork bite, or Telangiectatic nevus
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Colloquially called a “stork bite”, “angel’s kiss” or “salmon patch”, telangiectatic nevus appears as a pink or tanned, flat, irregularly-shaped mark on the knee, back of the neck, and/or the forehead, eyelids and, sometimes, the top lip. The skin is not thickened and feels no different from anywhere else on the body; the only difference remaining in appearance. Nearly half of all babies have such a birthmark

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Causes:
The cause of birthmarks is not fully understood. Birthmarks are a benign overgrowth of blood vessels, or melanocytes, or smooth musle, or fat, or fibroblast or keratinocytes. They are thought to occur as a result of a localized imbalance in factors controlling the development and migration of skin cells.

Folklore:
Birthmarks are called voglie in Italian, antojos in Spanish, and wiham in Arabic; all of which translate to “wishes” because, according to folklore, they are caused by unsatisfied wishes of the mother during pregnancy. For example, if a pregnant woman does not satisfy a sudden wish or craving for strawberries, it’s said that the infant might bear a strawberry mark.

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In Dutch, birthmarks are called moedervlekken, in Danish modermærke and in German Muttermal (mother-spots) because it was thought that an infant inherited the marks solely from the mother. The Hungarian word for any flat mole (as opposed to only congenital birthmarks), anyajegy, is also derived from this belief.

Some myths associated with birthmarks are that they are caused when an expectant mother sees something strange, or experiences a great deal of fear. You may click to see:Maternal impression for more information.

In Iranian folklore, a birth mark appears when the pregnant mother touches a part of her body during a solar eclipse.

Treatment:

Birthmarks are common in children, and most disappear within a few years without any need for treatment. Any attempt to remove them runs an unnecessary risk of complications or scarring.

Of course, if the mark is very conspicuous, and lasts into toddler years, they may become more aware of it. But, again, treatment may not be the best option. Instead, it’s usually better to simply play it down as far as possible, and make efforts to ensure everyone at home and school understands it’s quite normal, and will go away eventually.

While your child is still young, it’s important to check with your GP whether a birthmark is a port wine stain for two reasons:

•Sometimes a port wine stain can be one visible sign of a syndrome of different problems. For example, a port wine stain around the eye and side of the face can be linked to an abnormality of the blood vessels in the brain. This condition, called Sturge-Weber syndrome can lead to blindness and epilepsy. Port wine stains around the eyelids may also be linked to glaucoma and problems with the optic nerve. Further tests may be needed to check for these possibilities.

 

•Laser treatments, using a technique known as pulse dye laser or PDL, can be used to destroy the abnormal blood vessels and produce good results, with minimal scarring, but are best done while a child is still an infant, before the birthmark grows. The treatment is lengthy and expensive.

Cosmetic treatments, including skin creams which cover the mark.


Helping Kids Deal With Birthmarks

It can be a shock at first to see a birthmark on your newborn. Nobody is perfect, yet many people have an image of a perfect baby in their heads. If the birthmark is clearly visible, people might ask questions or stare, which can feel rude. It helps to have a simple explanation ready to handle intrusions like this. Most people mean no harm, but it’s also OK to let them know if they’ve gone too far.

Even at a young age, kids watch how their parents respond to situations like this. This is how they lean how to cope with others’ reactions. Talking simply and openly about a birthmark with kids makes them more likely to accept one as just another part of themselves, like hair color. And practice simple answers they can use when asked about it: “It’s just a birthmark. I was born with it.” It’s also important emotionally for kids to be around supportive family and friends who treat them normally.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/birthmarksstrawberrynaevi.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthmark
http://www.babycenter.com/0_birthmarks_75.bc
http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body/birthmarks.html#

http://www.i-am-pregnant.com/Birth/Birth-defects/Port-Wine-Stain

http://www.newbornbabyzone.com/newborn/whats-that-birthmark-on-my-newborn-baby/

http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/picture-of-cafe-au-lait-spots

http://www.skincareguide.ca/glossary/c/congenital_melanocytic.html

http://worrybomb.com/2008/12/14/stork-mark/

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