Birthmarks are pigmented spots on the skin that are present at the time of birth or occur shortly after birth. The pigmentation can occur in a number of different colors like tan, dark brown, purple, red, black, pink, white, pale and blue. It is not necessary for everyone to compulsorily have a birthmark. These colored spots can be flat or sometimes be raised slightly above the skin surface. In some cases, the pigments also extend to the tissues under the skin.
Birthmarks can be of different types and they are also categorized according to their composition. They are mainly the resultant of excessive accumulation of melanin on or under the skin surface and the most common ones are black or brown in color. The birthmarks that are lighter in color have a relatively low concentration of melanin. There is also a different category of birthmarks that are formed due to clustered blood vessels. These are known as vascular birthmarks and appear red, purple or bluish in color. Another category of birthmarks is composed of the lymphatic tissues, breast tissues or epidermal tissues. These are lighter in color and appear as pale, yellow or flesh colored spots on the skin.
The birthmarks that are present at the time of birth are caused due to defective migration of cells during the developmental stage of the fetus. If these tissues undergo a considerable multiplication, they become localized and therefore appear as birthmarks specific of their cell type. There are no specific locations where birthmarks can form, they can appear anywhere on the body.
Birthmarks come with no symptoms except for the appearance of pigmented spots on the skin. However, the birthmarks belonging to the vascular category may show certain significant symptoms. The vascular birthmarks are not easily identified and they often require advanced imaging techniques as well as a pathological examination of samples for identification. These are also known as hemangiomas and can start off as flat lesions, but can rapidly enlarge in just a few months, thus forming a more prominent mark. However, the vascular birthmarks may also ulcerate and disappear in the subsequent period. Although these do not cause any serious complications, they need to be treated immediately if they start developing around the important anatomical parts such as the eyes or mouth.
Birthmarks are considered to be quite normal and many people prefer to leave them untreated. However, if they are bigger or constantly growing in size and changing pigmentation, they may increase the risk of skin cancer. In that case, it is highly advisable to see a doctor right away. In rare cases, birthmarks may also develop itchiness and inflammation accompanied by pain, bleeding, ulceration or lesion formation. This could lead to further complications and it is best to have them treated on time.
Although there is no way to prevent birthmarks, people who have them should make it a point to use sun block lotions on the area so as to avoid exposure to the UV rays and other potentially damaging harmful elements.
In most cases, birthmarks need not be treated or removed. However, if they have been causing confidence issues, they can be removed through surgical procedures.