Port wine birthmarks 

Port wine birthmarks are vascular birthmarks caused by a problem with blood vessels in or under the skin. An expert explains the possible health implications of port wine birthmarks and the treatment options. Samantha describes how she dealt with daughter Abigail's birthmarks.

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Transcript of Port wine birthmarks

A port-wine stain is a birthmark which is red, flat, present at birth,

in about three per thousand people.

And is permanent unless treated.

A lot of children call it their special mark.

Sometimes it's an angel's kiss.

Abigail's birthmark was quite extensive

over most of the side of her face, up to her eye,

over to her ear and down to her mouth.

Port-wine stains always start off flat,

they can be anywhere on the skin,

as a rule the majority are on the face.

We weren't worried. They said, "It's a birthmark, you don't need to worry."

"The paediatric clinic will tell you more about it."

There are no known causes of port-wine stains,

it's just something that happens.

It was after the first appointment

that you start finding out the complications

and you go on the internet and start googling,

and you don't know what you're dealing with.

There is a syndrome called Sturge-Weber syndrome

where if the port wine stain is over the forehead

it's worth getting an MRI of the brain just to check that out.

There's also glaucoma associated with port wine stains around the eye.

It wasn't till after we'd been to see Great Ormond Street

and they had looked into her eyes

and said they were sure there was nothing on the back of her eye

and that would mean there was nothing anywhere else,

that we felt a little bit more happy, more comfortable with what was going on.

Port wine stains can be treated well with a laser.

We use pulse-dye lasers.

It's a yellow light which gets absorbed by the blood vessels

and very slowly shuts them off to make them lighter.

Laser surgery was an option but then there's the complications

of having a general anaesthetic, which was the big worry.

We never guarantee that we'll get rid of port wine stains with the laser,

but the chances are that you'll be able to fade it by a good 70% or more.

The surgery's been very successful

and I was surprised how quickly the laser dots went away.

When she first came home they were very dark,

but they start breaking down almost immediately.

And within two weeks they had faded

to the point where you couldn't really see them any more.

Port wine stains don't get larger,

they can however thicken and darken if they're not treated.

You're worried about them looking different and being different

and how that's going to affect them at school,

because kids can be cruel and you don't know how they'll be affected.

You don't know what their personality's like and how they'll deal with it.

If the parents are confident

and they don't show that they're really concerned about the birthmark,

then the children tend to be quite confident too.

If they're taught how to respond to people asking about it,

they tend to do much better.

If laser treatment isn't an option or doesn't do very well,

then there is always the skin camouflage make-up,

which can be taught by The Red Cross

or certain people in hospitals can teach you how to do it.

The support group were helpful,

to meet other people who'd been through the same sort of thing.

Once we'd met with doctors and discussed things,

I felt much more comfortable with what we were dealing with.


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