Port Wine Stains on Babies: What You Should Know

In a world not so different from ours, three out of every thousand babies born were graced with a unique mark. This mark wasn't just any ordinary mark; it bore the beautiful, deep color of port wine. This special birthmark, known as a port wine stain, was as common as it was distinctive, catching the eyes of parents and passersby alike.

Just like the swirling questions of the cosmos, the parents of these babies had curiosities dancing in their minds. What was this mark? Was it a cause for concern? And could anything be done about it? If you find yourself in this constellation of concerns and queries, then my dear friend, you've landed in the right galaxy of information.

Let's embark on a journey, hand in hand, through the universe of knowledge about these port wine stains. We'll explore the landscapes of understanding, where we'll learn not just what these birthmarks are, but also the gentle waves of action that can be taken if one so chooses. And most importantly, we'll shed light on what to expect in the future - because isn't that what all of us stargazing parents really want to know?

So grab your telescopes, fasten your seat belts, and prepare for a spacewalk into the heart of the port wine stain nebula. After all, knowledge is not just power, but also comfort, and in this journey together, we'll find both.

a woman with a port wine stain on her face

What Are Port Wine Stains?

Nevus flammeus, commonly called port wine stains, are a birthmark that is caused by tiny blood vessels in the top layer of the skin that have abnormally grown. This capillary malformation causes a red, purple, or blue patch on the skin. Port wine stains can vary in shape, size, color, and location on the body.

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These marks are usually located on the face, arms, legs, neck, or scalp but it is important to remember that port wine stains can appear anywhere on the body. Port wine stains are always present at birth but they may not be noticed until much later after your baby’s birth. 

As the child grows older, these birthmarks are likely to change over time. The size of the port wine stain typically grows in proportion with the child as they grow. The texture can change over time as well, causing flat and smooth skin at birth to become thickened and feel like there are pebbles stuck underneath your skin by the time you’re an adult.

This change in the skin’s texture can cause it to be more likely to bleed after injury, causing difficulty controlling the bleeding. This is due to the collection of abnormal blood vessels under the skin.

While the vast majority of port wine stains are medically harmless, some cases have come with an increased risk of certain rare neurological disorders like Sturge-Weber Syndrome. When port wine stains occur on the eyelid, there is an increased risk of developing glaucoma, a disease that attacks the optic nerve inside your eye. This is a serious condition and can lead to blindness if not properly treated.

Port wine stains can cause children to feel embarrassed or self-conscious if they are in a highly noticeable part of their body such as their face or hands. 

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How Do I Prevent Port Wine Stains?

Currently, there is no way to prevent port wine stains but there are ways to treat them. There are a variety of treatments ranging from laser therapy to topical creams that can be used to reduce the appearance of port wine stains.

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a woman receiving laser therapy


Laser Therapy

Laser therapy has been used since the 1990’s to treat patients with port wine stains. This form of therapy uses a concentrated beam of light to heat and destroy the capillaries that are causing the port wine stain discoloration. While lasers may sound like something from a sci-fi movie, they are considered one of the most effective and common ways to treat port wine stains.

While there are a variety of different lasers used to treat port wine stains, the most commonly used type of laser is a pulsed dye laser. Pulsed dye lasers create an intense and bright yellow light that gets absorbed by the capillary malformation and destroys them without damaging the tissue and skin around it. 

Laser treatment for babies usually starts during their infancy since their smaller blood vessels make the condition much easier to treat. These treatments can be an uncomfortable experience for your baby. Children usually get a numbing agent applied either topically or intramuscularly to help with the discomfort while babies and smaller children may be put under general anesthesia for the procedure.

Fortunately, these procedures are relatively short, usually not lasting more than about ten minutes. Expect the skin around the treatment area to look and feel like a bad sunburn but this will heal in about two weeks. Laser therapy requires multiple treatments to be effective.

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Cryosurgery, sometimes called cryotherapy, involves the use of extremely cold temperatures to treat many skin conditions including port wine stains. This requires the use of chemicals such as liquid nitrogen to freeze the skin around the abnormal blood vessels, destroying them. This can greatly reduce the appearance of the port wine stain.

This type of therapy is generally well-tolerated by adults but can cause considerable discomfort for a baby or child. Due to this discomfort, laser treatment is the preferred treatment for children with port wine stains.

a smiling baby laying on the floor


How Can I Help My Baby?

Port wine stains need a little bit more care and attention than regular skin does. Make sure to use a moisturizer on your baby’s skin, paying special attention to the port wine stain areas, as these areas can get extremely dry, chapped, and painful. 

As your baby grows up, they may notice that people stare or ask questions about their port wine stains. Talk to your child openly about their port wine stain and they will tend to accept it as another trait that they were born with like the color of their hair or eye color.

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Final Thoughts

In the bustling mosaic of life, there emerged a common little thread woven through the tapestry of newborns. This thread bore a unique color, the color of port wine, and was woven as a birthmark onto the skin of many babies. They called this thread a port wine stain. As common as it was, it didn't always weave seamlessly into the lives of its little bearers.

You see, some port wine stains chose to lay their roots in places that caught the eye, perhaps a little more than one might wish. These spots, whether on the face, neck, or hands, could sometimes cast a shadow of self-doubt on the radiant glow of their young owners.

But fear not, dear reader, for every cloud has a silver lining, and so does our tale. In this bustling mosaic of life, there bloomed a garden of safe and effective treatments for these port wine stains. These treatments, designed with love and care, could gently reduce the prominence of these birthmarks, giving our little heroes and heroines the chance to shine bright without the shade of doubt.

And here's a secret whisper of advice from the wind, my friend. If your baby has a port wine stain, consider taking them on this journey early. The tender age of infancy is a time when these treatments work best. Like a young tree easily swaying with the wind, a baby's skin is more receptive to these treatments, making the journey a little easier, a little smoother.

So, step forward with courage, dear reader. Embrace the opportunity to help your little one grow with confidence and joy. The world is but a canvas, and with the right strokes of care, you can help your child paint their masterpiece with unabashed pride and self-belief.

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