Does Everyone Have A Birthmark?

Does everyone have a birthmark? Yes, birthmarks are present on most infants, and may change shape/color as the child gets older.

Overview of Birthmarks

While birthmarks vary greatly in color, shape, and type, they are present on almost every newborn child. Some birthmarks may lead to a health issue, but they are largely harmless. Every birthmark is unique, and while there are subtypes of birthmark, no two are the same. Types of birthmarks may vary from deep, purple patches on the skin to small brown/pink marks. Most experts agree that birthmarks are random and not hereditary, and certain types of birthmarks are more common among certain races and ancestries.

Chances are, if you think you don't have a birthmark, you might be missing the one on your scalp/neck. Your birthmark may appear faded or stretched, and might be hidden underneath a tan or freckles. Birthmarks are a normal part of development within the womb, and can be caused by a number of things. They are largely harmless, but they may signify an underlying/potential health issue.

If you're concerned about your child's birthmark, ask your doctor about the spot. If it is unsightly or obvious, they can choose to have it removed later in life. In the meantime, educate your children on birthmarks and what they are. Encourage self-confidence, and do not give them any indication that their birthmark is ugly or weird. Their self-image relies heavily on their parents' opinion, so help them build a good one.

Symptoms and Types of Birthmarks

A birthmark may be in an obvious place like the face or neck, but they can occur virtually anywhere. The legs, arms, and chest are also popular places for birthmarks, but they can color hair and eyelids as well. Birthmarks may "disappear" with time, especially lighter colored marks that are easily overlooked. Virtually every person on earth has a birthmark, although they may appear stretched or faded as they grow older. Birthmarks on the scalp and neck may also be forgotten, as those places are hard to see.

There are many types of birthmarks, but here are the symptoms and appearances of a few:

  • Café au lait Spot: Usually brown/tan in color, these spots are shaped like ovals or circles. They can appear anywhere, and someone might have more than one spot. These are the most common form of birthmark. When many of these spots appear, they can develop into neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder.
  • Congenital Melanocytic Nevus: While they may appear as warts or beauty marks, these are birthmarks. While they are rarely cancerous, many people choose to remove them. They can vary in size and color, but are always darker than the person's skin tone.
  • Mongolian Spots: Often appearing on African-American children, these are dark brown/grey-blue spots that appear on the back and buttocks. They may look like bruises, and usually fade as the child gets older. They are harmless.
  • Hemangiomas: Also called "strawberry marks", these are red and slightly raised birthmarks. They can vary in size, shape, texture, and severity. These birthmarks may get infected or cause scarring to the surrounding area. They do not fade or go away with age, but they can be removed with treatment. For more prominent hemangiomas, surgery may be necessary.
  • Telangiectatic Nevus: Usually afflicting the face/neck/back, these marks can appear as "salmon patches", "stork bites", and "angel kisses". They are largely harmless, and fade with time. If they are on the scalp, they are usually obscured by hair.
  • Port Wine Stain: One of the more well-known and noticeable birthmarks, port wine stains are usually purple-red and vary in shape/size. They darken with age, and may hint towards glaucoma and brain abnormalities. They are usually treated with lasers and other procedures.
  • Silvermark: One of the few hereditary birthmarks, a silvermark is a streak of white/silver in otherwise colored hair. They can be dyed and hidden like normal grey hairs, but there is no treatment. They are completely harmless.

Causes of Birthmarks

While certain birthmarks can be inherited (silvermarks, for example), vascular birthmarks are not hereditary. They are completely random, and can occur anywhere. While they may be more obvious on light-skinned children, they can also appear in children with dark skin. The exact cause of most birthmarks is undetermined. Most experts believe port wine stains are caused by the dilation of blood vessels. This results in a purple-red mark across the face. Other experts blame the placenta and proteins for birthmarks. While there is no official cause of birthmarks, each one is unique to the child.

There is no truth in the idea that birthmarks are caused by the mother's diet, or how the child died in their 'past life'. Birthmarks are completely natural, and few children are born with unhealthy birthmarks. Children with certain types of birthmarks may decide to remove them for cosmetic reasons, especially if the mark is located on their face. However, this does not mean the birthmark is bad or harmful. Most marks are completely benign, and might fade as time goes on.

Treatment for Birthmarks

Treatment can vary depending on the type of birthmark, the reason it's being removed, and whether or not the mark is harmful. Where infected birthmarks or port wine stains might require heavy treatment in adolescence, most other birthmarks do not require medical attention. For cosmetic purposes, birthmarks can be covered with makeup. This reduces the need for surgery or medical treatment. Location of the birthmark can also determine the treatment. Marks in sensitive places like the face/eyes may require gentler treatment than those on the body and limbs.

Treatments for birthmarks can include:

  • Laser therapy: A non-invasive method for port wine stains and other vascular birthmarks.
  • Surgery: For hemangiomas and moles. Surgery involves cutting away the affected area, and works well for protruding birthmarks.
  • Corticosteroids and Interferon alfa-12: These drugs can shrink the birthmark and keep it from growing larger.

Prevention of Birthmarks

Because of their randomness, there is no way to prevent birthmarks in unborn children. Instead of trying to prevent them, doctors encourage parents to think positively about their child's features. Their self-confidence hinges on their parents' opinion of them, so its important to give children a good outlook on their birthmarks.