Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Children and Birthmarks
When a birthmark is more than a "bite"

by Dr. Anita Haggstrom

September 01, 2012

If your child has a birthmark, you may have heard it referred to as an “angel’s kiss” or a “stork bite.” In fact, about 10 percent of children are born with some type of birthmark. One common type of birthmark is known as a vascular birthmark. While most are harmless and go away on their own, others may require the evaluation of a specialist. Here’s what you need to know about vascular birthmarks.

What are vascular birthmarks?

Vascular birthmarks are made up of blood vessels that developed abnormally. They can appear as areas of discolored and/or raised skin, often red or blue in color.

Normally, these birthmarks are apparent at birth or within a few weeks of birth. Although the cause of vascular birthmarks is unknown, most are benign (non-cancerous). Others may be associated with other medical problems. It’s important to discuss your child’s birthmark and medical history with your doctor and determine if a referral to a specialist is needed.

What are the most common types of vascular birthmarks?

• The most common are “angel’s kisses” (which appear on the forehead and eyelids) or “stork bites” (which appear on the back of the neck). Angel’s kisses usually disappear by the time a child is 2 years old, while stork bites may last into adulthood.

• Infantile hemangiomas are sometimes called strawberry hemangiomas. They may have a tumor-like appearance but are not cancerous. These marks become visible in the first few weeks after birth and grow rapidly for about six to nine months. They often lose color and shrink on their own over a period of years.

• Port-wine stains are flat pink, red, or purple marks that can be seen at birth, often on the face and neck. They can appear in other areas, too. These marks continue to grow as your child grows and do not go away.

There are also less common types of birthmarks that may need further evaluation. Your doctor may recommend that your child see a specialist to determine the right treatment approach for these types of birthmarks.

How are vascular birthmarks treated?

About 90 percent of vascular birthmarks do not need any treatment. Others may need treatment if they are causing eating, vision or breathing problems. You may also decide to pursue treatment to correct cosmetic issues. If you and your child’s doctor determine that further care is needed, there are drug therapies and procedures, depending on the type of birthmark.

Specialists with the Vascular Lesions Clinic at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health have extensive experience in evaluating and treating vascular birthmarks and coordinating a variety of support services.