Birthmarks are common skin lesions that are either present at birth or develop shortly afterwards. Vascular (red) birthmarks result from a proliferation of blood vessels and can be one of two types in children: hemangiomas or port wine stains. It is important to distinguish between these two types. Most hemangiomas go through a period of rapid growth but will fade gradually over time on their own. However, port wine stains will not fade and can darken and thicken over time.
A hemangioma is a benign and usually self-involuting growth of the endothelial cells that line blood vessels. It is characterized by increased number of vessels filled with blood. It usually appears in the first weeks of life and grows most rapidly over the first six months. Usually, growth is complete and involution has commenced by twelve months. Half of all infantile hemangiomas have completed involution by age five, 70% by age seven, and most of the remainder by age twelve.
A port wine stain, or nevus flammeus, is caused by a capillary malformation in the skin and persists throughout life. The area of skin affected grows in proportion to general growth. Port-wine stains occur most often on the face but can appear anywhere on the body, particularly on the neck and upper trunk. Early stains are usually flat and pink in appearance, but the color may deepen to a dark red or purplish color over time. In adulthood, thickening of the lesion or the development of small lumps may occur.
Treatment of Vascular Birthmarks
Most vascular birthmarks can be treated with a vascular laser in the office and require multiple treatments. Removal generally takes a series of treatments, usually administered at 6-8 week intervals. Immediately after treatment, the birthmark becomes bruised and looks quite purple. This resolves over a couple of weeks. Newer lasers such as Laser treatment with the Excel V™ can remove birthmarks that were incompletely removed by older-generation lasers. They reduce redness and improve the appearance of blood vessels associated with these conditions.
Dr. Curcio specializes in Cosmetic and Laser Surgery. With her extensive experience, she can personalize a treatment regimen to help you attain the best possible result.