Birthmarks are colored spots on the skin that babies are born with or develop shortly after birth. These marks can be bright red, pink, brown, tan, or bluish. Birthmarks can be flat on the surface of the skin or raised.
The exact cause of birthmarks is unknown. However, some birthmarks can be genetic or associated with a disease.
Moles are common in all humans. Other birthmarks may be isolated or have different causes. For example:
Symptoms differ depending on the type of birthmark. Symptoms may include:
On rare occasions, moles can become cancerous. Any suspicious, colored lesion should be examined by a physician and closely observed or removed.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Birthmarks are usually diagnosed based on the appearance of the skin area. If there is any question of the diagnosis, a biopsy may be taken and tested. You may also be referred to a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in skin disorders.
Most birthmarks can and should be left alone. Treatment is generally recommended if the birthmark is:
Treatment options depend on the type of birthmark and may include the following:
Regular check-ups with your doctor or dermatologist are important for lesions undergoing treatment or observation.
American Academy of Dermatology
Vascular Birthmarks Foundation
Canadian Dermatology Association
Birthmarks. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body/birthmarks.html. Updated April 2013. Accessed May 5, 2016.
Guttman C. Clinical, molecular features aid worrisome birthmark recognition. Dermatology Times. 2005;26(4):66-67.
Hemangioma information. Vascular Birthmark Foundation website. Available at: http://www.birthmark.org/node/24. Accessed May 5, 2016.
Hemangioma in infants. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 26, 2016. Accessed May 5, 2016.
Why people get birthmarks. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/for-kids/about-skin/birthmarks/why-people-get-birthmarks. Accessed May 5, 2016.
Last reviewed August 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.