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Birthmarks are skin markings that are present at birth or develop shortly afterward.
Most birthmarks fall into one of two categories: port-wine stain birthmarks and coffee-and-cream birthmarks.
Port-wine stains are vascular birthmarks, caused by a high concentration of blood vessels in a particular area. Coffee-and-cream birthmarks are simply patches of skin that have a high concentration of pigmentation.
Photos courtesy of lloyd-derm.com
Published research in the implication of having a port wine stain indicates that in addition to having to cope with the overt noticeable mark, patients are "marked" by feelings of a poor self image and lack of confidence. As young children, they are often the subject of cruel teasing; as young adults they question their physical attractiveness and continue to be affected by a sense that they are "different."
The key to successful treatment is removing the birthmark as early as possible. In infants, the mark is often lighter and less extensive therefore requiring fewer treatments. Typically, 4-6 treatments at intervals of several months are required to remove the birthmark. It is also preferable to treat patients at an early age because the child is spared the psychological trauma and complications of growing up with a birthmark.
Abnormal vascular skin lesions are treated with a pulsed dye laser which produces a beam of yellow light that passes harmlessly through the translucent layers of the skin and specifically heats the red blood vessels causing the lesion. Because the beam is emitted in short pulses, the heat produced in the blood diffuses without damaging the surrounding tissue. After the heated blood congeals, the vessels atrophy. Thus, the laser removes or dramatically fades the marks with virtually no scarring.