Some babies are born with a ruby red splotch on their skin. While this is commonly referred to as a port wine stain, the medical term for it is nevus flammeus, which is why it may also be referred to as a "firemark." Here is what you need to know about this congenital condition.
What Is The Cause Of Port Wine Stains?
Rather than being an issue of excess pigment in the skin or being similar to freckles like most people would assume, a port wine stain is actually a vascular condition. When the fetus is developing in the womb, a gene mutation affects the mechanism that controls the development of blood vessels in the body. Rather than shutting off, it works overtime, causing normally tiny blood vessels to grow larger, which gives the skin blotch its deep red appearance.
Are Port Wine Stains Dangerous?
While they can be annoying for the child, in most cases, a port wine stain is harmless and isn't indicative of any underlying disease. However, the same gene that mutates and causes a port wine stain is also associated with a rare disorder called Sturge-Weber syndrome. This is a brain disorder that causes problems with seizures, learning disabilities, and eye and vision problems. A port wine stain near the eye can play a role in the development of glaucoma in later life, which is a leading cause of blindness caused by increased vascular pressure on the optic nerve in the eye.
Do Port Wine Stains Change Overtime?
Most birthmarks, sometimes called "stork bites," don't change at all. They stay the same size and color as the child grows. With a port wine stain, however, they grow as the child grows. This is because of their vascular nature. They also become a darker, deeper red over time. The texture of the skin will also change, with the skin over the port wine stain changing from smooth to gritty. While the port wine stain doesn't hurt, the skin over it can become drier than the surrounding skin.
What Can Be Done About A Port Wine Stain?
If a port wine stain is located on the trunk, arms, or legs, it usually isn't troublesome. However, a port wine stain on the face may bother the child, especially as they grow and it grows along with them. While there isn't a "cure," repeated laser treatments may lighten the stain and make it less noticeable.
For more information and options for treatment, contact a medical center, such as Shriners Hospitals for Children – Cincinnati.