What are Birthmarks?

A birthmark is a blemish that appears on the skin and is formed before birth. The cause of birthmarks is unknown, but it is believed they may caused in part by cellular damage caused from radiation or chemicals. In addition, some types of birthmarks appear to run in families.

Birthmarks in Folklore

Birthmarks have had their place in folklore for many years. In fact, Middle Eastern and Italian cultures called them wiham and voglie, respectively, which means “wishes.” This term came from the fact that birthmarks in folklore were said to be caused by a pregnant mother’s unanswered wishes. For example, a pregnant woman wishing for strawberries who did not receive the strawberries might have a child with a strawberry birthmark.

Types of Birthmarks

There are a wide variety of birthmarks a child may be born with. These include strawberry marks, stork bites, Mongolian blue spots, congenital melanocytic nevi, café au lait spots, and port wine stains. Each of these birthmarks has its own characteristics, colors, shapes, and prominent locations on the body.

Strawberry marks, for example, are generally raised and lumpy. They can be found anywhere on the body and appear in one in every twenty births. Generally, these marks first appear between one and four weeks after birth and grow rapidly, then shrink. 90% of these birthmarks disappear by the time the child is nine years old. Laser surgery is sometimes used to remove strawberry marks that are problematic or that are not going away on their own.

Stork bites, on the other hand, are pink, flat, and irregular. They generally show up on the forehead, neck, or top lip. They are found on nearly half of all newborns and most fade away within the first year of the infant’s life. No treatment is necessary with stork bites.

Mongolian blue spots are bluish in color and look like bruises. They are generally about ten centimeters across and located on the lower back and bottom. They appear most often on individuals with darker skin, particularly East Asian people. They marks also may not appear at first, but gradually fade away after they do appear and require no treatment for removal.

Congenital melanocytic naevus is light brown on fair skinned people and almost black on darker skinned people. These marks can appear anywhere on the body and occur in about one in one hundred births. These marks can be removed with laser surgery, though they do need to be watched carefully because changes can be a sign of cancer.

Café au lait spots are light brown and oval. They can be found anywhere on the body and it is common to have one or two spots. These spots do not fade with age, but can be treated with laser cosmetic surgery.

Port wine stains are pale pink at birth but become darker as the person grows older until they are a deep red color. They are irregularly shaped and are usually quite large. They often appear on the face and occur in three in one thousand births. These marks do not fade and, in fact, often become worse in time. These birthmarks can also be removed with laser cosmetic surgery.

Birthmarks are a common occurrence, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest of your life with them. If you have a birthmark that causes physical discomfort because of its location or causes you embarrassment, laser cosmetic surgery is a safe and effective means for getting rid of the birthmark without leaving scarring.