If a child has a birthmark, it usually appears on the baby’s skin after birth – thus the name. In most cases, a birthmark is a harmless spot that adds to a child’s uniqueness and may even fade over time.
The mark was likely checked by your pediatrician or obstetrician and determined to be a mere birthmark and nothing else. However, it may also indicate an underlying issue that requires an evaluation by a pediatric dermatologist.
When a benign (harmless) birthmark appears in a visible location of the body like the face, it can negatively affect a child’s self-esteem. Never talk about the birthmark yourself or focus on it visually, unless the child brings it up. As a parent, you have an essential role in helping your child deal with the birthmark in a healthy way.
How Birthmarks Affect a Child’s Self-Esteem
Children can notice physical differences between themselves and other people as early as age 2. As they continue to grow, their relationships outside of the family also become increasingly important.
Studies show that school-aged children with facial birthmarks, like port-wine stains, tend to report higher instances of bullying, teasing, and social isolation. Moreover, these children generally have lower self-esteem and become more self-critical than other children.
If the child says anything about the birthmark, explain to your child that there is nothing wrong or lacking with them in any way. Emphasize that their birthmark makes them unique, and tell them about famous people who have birthmarks or moles which give them character and makes them look unique and interesting. If everyone looked the same, life would be pretty boring!
If the birthmark has never been evaluated or acknowledged by a doctor, you can work with a pediatric dermatologist who can evaluate the child’s birthmark and determine whether it warrants treatment. Visiting a dermatologist also allows your child the opportunity to ask questions and gain more information about birthmarks.
Be prepared if your child asks to have the birthmark removed. The pediatric dermatologist can address this as well, because the sooner a skin mark or growth is removed, the smoother and more invisible it will appear as the child gets older.
Removing or Treating a Birthmark
You may ask your child’s dermatologist for options to conceal or treat a birthmark. Most birthmarks, like salmon patches and café au lait spots, are no cause for worry; but some marks can result in unwanted effects when they form near vital structures like the eyes.
For instance, a hemangioma is a lumpy or textured birthmark that often forms on the head, neck, arm, or leg. Depending on its location, a hemangioma that rapidly grows on the face can threaten the proper functioning of the eyelids or nose.
Likewise, children with congenital nevus are at high risk of skin cancer. A congenital nevus is a dark-colored mole that may cover a large area on the scalp or trunk. You may bring your child to a pediatric dermatologist for evaluation and treatment, which may depend on its size, location, and skin cancer risk.
In some cases, a birthmark may be a sign of an underlying disease. A port-wine stain is a permanent birthmark that often appears on the face, and it is associated with Sturge-Weber syndrome – a condition that affects the blood vessels, sometimes including vessels in the brain.
Treatments for Severe Birthmarks
Birthmark treatments depend on the type and severity of the mark. For port-wine stains, your doctor may recommend laser treatment to lighten the birthmark. There are also topical medicines and oral drugs that can help reduce the size of hemangiomas.
For a rapidly growing hemangioma, your doctor may administer corticosteroid injections to slow down its development. On the other hand, dermatological surgery is usually recommended for live and raised moles that increase a child’s risk of developing skin cancer.
Birthmark Treatment in Miami and Coral Gables, Florida
If you have any concerns about your child’s birthmark or anything unusual about their skin, visit the experts at Children’s Skin Center. We will evaluate the issue in question and give your child a skin check, and we will provide any necessary treatment right away.
Our team is led by Dr. Ana Duarte, a board-certified and fellowship-trained dermatologist with over 20 years of pediatric dermatology experience. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us today by calling (305) 669-6555 or by filling out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to helping you and your child!