Some children – approximately three in a thousand, irrespective of gender – are born with this kind of irregularly shaped but well-circumscribed discoloration called port-wine stains (or nevus flammeus).
Already visible at birth as flat, pink patches that often appear on only one side of the infant’s body, port-wine stains continue to grow with time darkening and thickening as the baby grows up.
Port wine stains are relatively permanent birthmarks that are caused by pooling of blood in dilated vessels due to a deficiency or absence in the nerve supply. They do not fade or even remain the same over time; rather they progressively thicken with age deepening to a dark-red or purplish color. They may even develop into small ridges or bumps.
While mere appearance of port-wine stains is not by itself a disease or otherwise a harmful medical condition, they can easily be confused with marks on the upper eyelid or forehead that are indicative of what is called Sturge-Weber syndrome. They may also be associated with glaucoma and seizures. Early professional assistance is, therefore, necessary for a timely diagnosis. Depending on the location of the birthmark and other symptoms a skin biopsy may be needed. In very unusual cases, an intraocular pressure test or an x-ray of the skull may be required.
Moreover, because of their progressive nature early treatment is also advised to prevent the skin from cobbling and the stains from thickening and darkening which can cause additional social and emotional adjustment problems for most people. Like any other medical condition, early detection of port-wine stains can also mean successful treatment. Generally, older the stains the more difficult they may be to treat. Further, it may be kept in mind that stains on the face respond better to laser therapy than if they occur elsewhere on the body such as those on the arms, legs, or middle of the body.
Although someone with port-wine stain survives having this mark in their life time, doing activities like a normal person most people opt to get treatment to reduce its appearance.
Finally, when it comes to deal with port-wine stains, laser therapy stands out as the treatment of choice among the medical community and patients alike. Most patients report very good to excellent results.
Although laser is the most effective treatment with few side effects, it requires a continuing treatment plan starting with multiple treatment sessions (4 to 6 on the average) to deal with these birthmarks. Thereafter, the individual has to have continuing laser treatments for maintenance over her life time since port-wine stains (being permanent birthmarks) can not be lasered out for good. To keep them faded, therefore, the individual needs to have one or two treatments every time they reoccur.
While that is being said, it will be helpful to note that a person having port-wine stains needs to educate herself on the different ways she can take care of them. It is very important to make sure that she tends properly on the birthmark before, during and after treatment observing any abnormality on the affected area such as rashes, irritation, deformation, infection etc. and reporting the same to your healthcare provider.
If you need more information or professional assistance with port-wine stains, do not hesitate to book your free consultation session with our specialist, available in the skincare or laser department of our Dubai Cosmetic Surgery Clinic.