Birthmarks have a couple of sources. First, many are caused by arteriovenous malformations. Blood vessels form abnormally and that causes an impression on the skin, or just below it, to be seen. Some are caused by problems with the lymphatic system, where problems with the vessels lead to swelling below the skin. When the problem occurs within the skin, you get birthmarks that are flat or even raised.

Types of Birthmarks

* Hemangiomas – These appear reddish in color and are due to blood vessel issues below the skin. They occur most likely on the face and neck. They are usually detected at birth up until about 18 months. Through childhood, they begin to fade away. When they do not, a problem doesn’t occur unless they begin to threaten vision, breathing, hearing or heart function depending on where they are located. A doctor can remove them surgically if they are life-threatening.

* Port wine stain – These are found all over the body, but are usually seen on the head and neck region. They appear reddish to purplish in color (depending on skin tone). Port wine stains don’t fade with time and can be either flat or raised. Laser treatments have been used to help lighten them from visible spots such as the face. These treatments may also help contour the skin for raised stains.

* Macular stains – this is one of the most common types of vascular birthmarks. It they usually occur on the face area or the back of the neck. On the face, they are called “angel kisses” on the eyes and forehead. On the back of the neck, they are referred to as “stork bites.” They usually disappear in early childhood.

* Nevi – these are raised or hairy moles that occur at birth or soon after. They can occur on any area of the body. Moles are a cause for concern and are typically monitored for changes in color, borders, bleeding and size. A doctor can remove them and test to see if any are cancerous.

* Pigmented birthmarks – this type includes café-au-lait spots and Mongolian spots. They are discolorations on the skin that occur on the buttocks or other parts of the body. Café-au-lait spots are usually light brown or tan. Mongolian spots are bluish, resembling a bruise. They both will fade as the child gets older without any medical intervention.

Birthmarks can occur anywhere on the body. They are caused by skin discoloration and also abnormalities in vessel formation under the skin. Most will fade, but those that do not may require medical attention.