Why do birthmarks appear?

Most people have birthmarks, although in many cases they are imperceptible. Many of these spots disappear with time, although some remain throughout life.

It is not uncommon for newborns to have redness or pimples that disappear within a few weeks after delivery. However, there are birthmarks that do not disappear with time and can even intensify with age.

In most cases, birthmarks do not represent any health problem, but they can have effects on appearance depending on their characteristics. Only very rarely do these marks increase the risk of skin cancer or other pathologies.

There are many false beliefs surrounding birthmarks. There are those who think that this is an effect of some craving of the mother or that they occur because she consumed strawberries during pregnancy. These claims, or similar ones, have no foundation.

What are birthmarks

Birthmarks are the alterations in the skin color  of a newborn. Sometimes these spots form during pregnancy and other times they appear a few days or weeks after delivery. It is believed that 80% of people are born with one of these brands. Some of these marks last a lifetime, and others simply fade over time. The truth is that regardless of their size, location, color or shape, you should always consult with your pediatrician  to examine them and determine if they are harmless or not.

Many of these spots, especially the brown ones, are barely noticeable in the baby’s first months. At that stage, they tend to have a lighter tone and that is why they go unnoticed. Typically, they get darker over time. However, there are different types of spots, which have other characteristics.

Pigmented spots

There are basically two types of birthmarks: pigmented and vascular. In turn, within these two large groups there are some subgroups with differentiated characteristics. Among the pigmented spots we find the following:

  • Coffee-with-milk stains. They are the most common, appear anywhere on the body and sometimes multiply as the child grows. If there are several and are larger than 0.5 centimeters, it could be a case of neurofibromatosis.
  • Mongolian spots. They are bluish-gray in color and are frequently located on the buttocks or lower back. They are more common in dark skin  and almost always disappear at school age.
  • MolesMoles that are found at birth are called congenital nevi  and last for life. They are brown, tan or black in color; they can be flat or protruding and contain hair. If they are very large, in a few cases they can turn into cancer.

Vascular stains

Vascular spots are characterized by their shades ranging from pink to violet depending on the subtype. The most common are the following:

  • Macules. They are the most common vascular spots and generally appear on the eyelids, nose, upper lip, and on the back of the head or neck. They have a faint red color and almost always disappear before the age of 2.
  • Hemangiomas. They can be shallow or deep. The superficial ones are bright red and the deep ones have a bluish hue. The most common is that they disappear between 5 and 9 years of life. They usually appear on the head or neck.
  • ‘Port wine’ type stain. They appear mainly on the face, neck, arms, or legs. They are similar to the hue of Porto and tend to darken and thicken over time if left untreated. They never disappear spontaneously.

Why do birthmarks appear?

Science does not know the precise reasons why birthmarks appear. Nor is it known why they disappear or remain over time. In the case of pigmented spots, it is known that they are due to an accumulation of melanocytes in a certain area of ​​the skin.

What happens in these cases is that there is more melanin than there should be and the skin makes this accumulation transparent. They are of different shades due to the depth of the skin in which they are located.

Vascular stains, on the other hand, are due to an incorrect formation of blood vessels. Sometimes there are more of these in an area or they are wider than usual.

Of course, when in doubt, the recommendation is always to consult your pediatrician. The professional will know how to define if it is a stain that requires other studies or not. Only few cases require complexity to arrive at the diagnosis

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