Birthmarks get their name for one simple reason: They are marks that are present
on the skin of a lot of newborn babies! A baby can develop birthmarks either before
being born or soon after birth.
One of the most common types of birthmarks is called a hemangioma
(say: he-man-jee-OH-muh). Hemangiomas are a bunch of tiny blood vessels that grow
in a specific area on the skin — that's why they usually look red or purple.
Blood vessels are tiny tubes that carry blood through the body.
No one knows what causes blood vessels to group together, but it's good to know
that most birthmarks aren't a sign of any kind of illness and usually don't hurt at
all. Lots of newborns have these birthmarks on their bodies, perhaps between the eyebrows
(where they're called angel kisses). These birthmarks are from wider blood vessels
and usually disappear early in life.
Types of Hemangiomas
One kind of hemangioma is called a superficialhemangioma
(sometimes called a strawberry hemangioma). If you think it gets
its name from the fruit, you're right. A superficial hemangioma is bright red and
sticks out of the skin, so it does look a little bit like a strawberry. Some superficial
hemangiomas go away on their own by the time a kid is about 5 years old. Almost all
superficial hemangiomas go away by themselves by the time a kid is about 10 years
Another type of hemangioma is beneath the outer layer of skin. It's called a deep
hemangioma (sometimes called a cavernoushemangioma).
Cavernous means "like a cave," and caves are deep in the earth. So this type
of birthmark is deep beneath the outer layer of skin. It's puffier than a superficial
hemangioma and a different color: not red like a strawberry, but more bluish-red.
Port Wine Stains
Another kind of birthmark is a port wine stain (these are from
wider, not more blood vessels). This isn't puffy or raised like a superficial or deep
hemangioma — it's level with the outer layer of skin. A port wine stain is an
area of skin that is either maroon (a purplish-red color) or dark red. It gets its
name from port wine, a type of wine that is dark maroon. Kids who have these stains
usually have them on the face and neck.
Doctors can sometimes use laser surgery
to treat birthmarks so that they can't be seen as much. It's important to remember,
though, that birthmarks really aren't a big deal and kids who have them aren't any
different from kids who don't.
By the way — If you have had any brown, blue, or black spots on your
skin since birth, they are probably types of moles! Moles are tiny
collections of pigment cells — cells that contain color. Like
other birthmarks, moles don't hurt and usually aren't a sign of illness in kids. Sometimes
they're even called beauty marks or beauty spots.
But if you have questions about a mole or birthmark on your body, you can ask
your doctor about it.