What is a birthmark?
Birthmarks come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. They may be present at birth or develop in the first year of life. The most common birthmark types are:
- Melanocytic (pigment cell) birthmarks: Usually brown, large, often hair-bearing.
- Café-au-lait spots: Light brown spots which can form anywhere on the body.
- Mongolian spots: Flat, bluish-gray patches which are present at birth, usually found on lower back or buttocks and more common in people with darker skin. This type of birthmark typically disappears within the first few years of life.
- Moles: Moles can appear in many different forms and colors. Moles that are new or changing should be checked by your practitioner to ensure they are benign.
- Vascular (blood vessel) birthmarks: Usually red or reddish-purple.
- Macular stains: Also called stork bites, these small faint red marks are the most common type of vascular birthmark and usually fade away on their own.
- Hermangiomas: Also called "strawberry marks" because of their red color and shape, they usually appear on the head and neck. Deeper hermangiomas are darker in color.
- Port-wine stains: These dark, wine-colored discolorations apparent at birth that grow with a child can appear anywhere on face, neck, arms and legs and do not go away on their own, but can be removed with in-offfice treatment.
- Nevus sebaceous (oil gland) birthmarks: These are typically hairless, yellowish, often bumpy growths on the scalp or face.
How do birthmarks form?
The cause of birthmarks is mostly unknown. Contrary to some old wives’ tales, they do not form as a result of anything done or eaten by the mother during pregnancy.
How do we remove?
Birthmarks are benign lesions and can be removed if they bother you cosmetically. Different types of birthmarks are removed in different ways. Removal methods include:
- Excision: A surgical procedure that involves cutting out a birthmark with a scalpel and closing the site with sutures.
- Punch excision: A minimal surgical procedure that involves removing the birthmark with a cylindrical cookie cutter-like instrument called a "punch".
- Shave removal: A surgical procedure where an elevated lesion is shaved flat. Some pigment may remain after a shave removal.
- Laser treatment: This non-invasive procedure uses different frequencies of light beams to remove, lighten and improve the appearance of different types of birthmarks over time.
What can I expect?
An initial examination and consultation will be followed by a discussion of your removal options. Surgical removal of unwanted birthmarks is painless at Orentreich Medical Group as the area is completely anesthetized prior to removal. When a birthmark is removed surgically, it may be sent to a lab for biopsy to ensure that all the cells in the growth are normal.
Some removal methods will require a suture closure, which may require you to return to the office in one week to remove the sutures. You will be advised on how to care for your birthmark removal site to ensure an optimal cosmetic outcome.
Have a question about your treatment?
We have a dedicated triage nurse (RN) who answers patient questions during office hours. If you have a problem or question about a procedure or a prescribed medication, please call our office and ask to speak to our nurse. If she is unable to answer your question, she will consult with your practitioner and return your call.