Birthmark is a broad term used to describe skin irregularities that are present at birth or appear later in life. Most birthmarks do not indicate a medical problem, and some will resolve spontaneously over time. While most birthmarks have no reason to cause concern, some may present a cosmetic problem, a medical problem, or be associated with future medical issues.
If you have a questionable pigmentation, or if you’re unsure whether that spot on your arm is, actually, a birthmark, visiting one of our Minneapolis-area offices is an excellent start. Our practitioners are experienced with every type of skin lesion, which means we can assess your mark, let you know if it’s something to worry about, and suggest various treatment options.
Though the name may imply otherwise, not all birthmarks appear at birth. In many cases, they can develop hours, days, weeks, or even years later. Birthmarks are caused by an overgrowth of structures or cells normally found in the skin. For example, extra pigment could cause a large mole at birth. Additionally, blood vessels could cause “angel kisses” or “stork bites” on the forehead, eye lids, back of the neck, scalp, or lower back. Large, irregular blood vessels can cause “strawberry” hemangiomas, port wine stains, or larger more significant hemangiomas. The type of birthmark you have will indicate the way in which it was formed.
The two most common types of birthmarks are vascular and pigmented birthmarks. When blood vessels grow abnormally, they form vascular birthmarks, which are usually pink or red in color. The color of larger or deeper vascular birthmarks may range from red or purple to blue. By contrast, pigmented birthmarks are caused by extra pigment in the skin and may vary in color from brown or blue to slate gray.
Birthmarks can be different shapes and sizes, flat or raised. A birthmark should not cause any pain, but if it hurts, itches, bleeds, becomes infected, or interferes with vision or eating, the birthmark should get immediate attention from your dermatologist.
While there is a nearly endless list describing types of birthmarks, some are more common than others. Below, you’ll find descriptions and causes of some of the most common types of birthmarks we see.