The different types of birthmark have their own appearance and typical location:
Cavernous hemangiomas may appear as a red-blue spongy mass of tissue filled with blood.
Port-wine stains are most often located on the face. The size varies from very small to over half of the body surface.
Salmon patches are small, pink, flat spots. They are small blood vessels (capillaries) that are visible through the skin. They are most common on the forehead, eyelids, upper lip, between the eyebrows, and on the back of the neck. Salmon patches may be more noticeable when the infant cries or during temperature changes.
Strawberry hemangiomas may appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the neck and face. They consist of small, closely packed blood vessels.
Signs and tests
A health care provider should examine all birthmarks. Diagnosis is based primarily on the appearance of the skin lesion.
Many strawberry hemangiomas, cavernous hemangiomas, and salmon patches are temporary and do not need treatment.
The nevus flammeus type of hemangiomas may not need treatment unless it is disfiguring, psychologically distressing, painful, or it changes in appearance.
Concealing cosmetics (such as Covermark) may hide permanent birthmarks.
Oral or injected cortisone may reduce the size of a hemangioma that is growing quickly and obstructing vision or vital organs.
Permanent birthmarks are usually not treated unless they cause unwanted symptoms, or until a child is at least school age. Port wine stains on the face are an exception. They should be treated at a young age with a yellow pulsed-dye laser, to prevent psychological and social problems.
Birthmarks rarely cause problems, other than cosmetic changes. Many birthmarks go away on their own by the time a child is of school age, but some are permanent.
Strawberry hemangiomas usually grow quickly, stay the same size, and then go away. Ninety-five percent of strawberry hemangiomas disappear by the time the child is 9 years old. However, there may be some slight discoloration or puckering of the skin where a strawberry hemangioma was.
Some cavernous hemangiomas disappear on their own, usually as a child approaches school age.
Port wine stains are often permanent.
Salmon patches often fade as the infant grows. Patches on the back of the neck may not fade, but are usually not noticeable as the hair grows.
Emotional distress because of appearance
Discomfort or bleeding from vascular birthmarks (occasional)
Scarring or complications after surgical removal
Calling your health care provider
Have all birthmarks examined by a health care provider to determine the treatment, possible complications, and likely outcome.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.