Treating birthmarks

In the case of most birthmarks, such as port wine stains and haemangiomas, early medical attention will help reduce the chance of health complications.

Watch a video on treating birthmarks

If you notice that your newborn baby has a birthmark, or you feel there's something unusual about their appearance, raise it with your obstetrician, midwife, paediatrician or health visitor.

If necessary, your baby may be referred by the hospital team to the appropriate consultant (so you won't need to go through your GP).

If the disfigurement doesn’t require immediate medical attention, you will be advised to contact your GP.

“Parents can ask their doctor to refer them to a birthmark specialist or a paediatrician with a special interest in disfigurement,” says Dr Samira Batul Syed, a paediatric consultant at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Port wine stains

“If the baby has a port wine stain, I will determine if it’s purely cosmetic or if there are any complications resulting from the birthmark,” says Dr Syed.

“The treatment of choice for port wine stains is pulsed dye laser therapy. It won’t remove it completely, but can improve its appearance by up to 70% after four to six treatments.”

If the port wine stain is on the face and covering the eye or scalp, there is a risk of glaucoma or epilepsy. “In this instance, early intervention is necessary,” says Dr Syed.

At the hospital, the consultant can call on a number of specialists qualified to deal with birthmark complications, including ophthalmologists, neurologists and surgeons.

“If there’s a birthmark around the mouth, I need to think about feeding problems or breathing difficulties,” says Dr Syed. “In this case, I would involve the feeding team or the ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist.”

Haemangiomas

Haemangiomas are birthmarks caused by tiny blood vessels that produce a raised mark on the skin. About 80% of haemangiomas don’t cause problems, and will recede and eventually disappear with time.

However, in 20% of cases, where the haemangioma is growing near the eye, nose, or mouth, treatment should start within the baby’s first four weeks to prevent further growth.

“We must always be aware of associated complications and deal with them appropriately,” says Dr Syed.

The psychological impact of facial disfigurement is usually observed in children from about the age of five, and sometimes earlier. “This is especially true if the parents have expectations about how their child should look,” says Dr Syed.

Parents and children can get help from disfigurement support groups such as the Birthmark Support Group or Changing Faces.

“For long-term conditions, it’s important to get support to help the child deal with different forms of discrimination they may encounter,” says Dr Syed.

Birthmarks (haemangioma)

Haemangiomas are vascular birthmarks caused by abnormal blood vessels in or under the skin. Find out how to deal with birthmarks and what to do if they cause complications, such as problems with eyesight or breathing.

Media last reviewed: 03/05/2016

Next review due: 03/05/2018

Page last reviewed: 02/10/2014

Next review due: 02/10/2017

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 10 ratings

All ratings

8  ratings
1  ratings
1  ratings
0  ratings
0  ratings

Add your rating

Services near you

Find addresses, phone numbers and websites for services near you

'My baby's birthmark'

Claire Lewin talks about bringing up her daughter Eloise, who was born with a haemangioma

Rebecca Lindsay

'My child's birthmark surgery'

Gillian Lindsay talks about her child's birthmark and the successful operation to remove it

Changing Faces awareness campaign poster

Living with facial disfigurement

Information and advice about building confidence and handling people's reactions for people with facial disfigurements

The NHS at 65

Marking 65 years of the National Health Service, we look to what's being done for health now and how services are shaping our future health