No, it’s not a spill of wine on the couch or the carpet. Port-wine stain is a type of birthmark that appears due to blood vessel growth. The maroon-colored mark was named for the appearance that resembled wine spilled or splashed on the skin. Most spots start out as a light pink at birth, though they tend to darken to a reddish-purple or dark red as kids grow. While port-wine stains won’t go away on their own, they can be treated to make stains less noticeable through the help of laser therapies.
How Do Port-Wine Stains Occur?
Port-wine stain is a vascular malformation. It’s caused by an abnormal development in the smallest blood vessels, also known as capillaries. They’re often found on the head and neck, but can be found anywhere on the body. Eventually, they may increase in size and become more textured with age, making it more difficult to treat. If a child or parent is concerned with the removal treatment of port-wine stains, it should be done sooner rather than later.
How Are Port-Wine Stains Treated?
While some port-wine stains begin as small and hard to see, their growth can be really upsetting for kids, especially as it becomes larger and darker.
Thankfully, treatment is available with lasers, which use highly concentrated light energy to lighten the appearance of port-wine stains. Many parents begin the laser treatment during the infant stages because the stain and blood vessels are smaller. This makes the port-wine stain birthmark much easier to treat. Treatments are also successful with older kids and teens, although the longer someone has had the stain, the harder it might be to successfully treat it.
While laser treatment isn’t very painful, it can be uncomfortable. Many times, young children are given an anesthetic in the form of a cream to numb the area. Younger kids may also be given general anesthesia to help them sleep or relax during the procedure. It’s normal to see swelling or bruising following the treatment, but it should subside in 7 to 10 days.
In older children, port-wine stains often become bumpy, thick, or raised. To combat this, a doctor may need to use another type of laser, possibly surgery, depending on the size and severity of the stain. Port-wine stains that have not been treated are also prone to growing nodules of small blood vessels called vascular blebs. While they normally aren’t tumorous or malignant, they tend to bleed and it’s usually best to have them removed.
And laser treatments may not get rid of the birthmark entirely. In some cases, the birthmark may come back and need to be retreated. Also, it should be noted that treatment does not work for everyone. Every port-wine stain is different, so the results will vary from person to person.
Interested in port-wine stain treatment? Reach out to an experienced board-certified dermatologist. Dr. Ana M. Duarte and her staff at the Children’s Skin Center are South Florida’s premier pediatric dermatology practice. With offices in Miami (Nicklaus Children’s Hospital main campus), Coral Gables, Doral, Miami Lakes, Miramar, Kendall, Palm Beach Gardens, and Pinecrest, getting kid-friendly dermatology care with a board-certified dermatologist has never been easier or more convenient. Call (305) 669-6555 or use the secure online form to schedule your appointment today.