A birthmark is a blemish on the skin formed before birth. They are part of the group of skin lesions known as naevi. The cause of birthmarks is unknown, but may include cellular damage due to radiation or chemicals. Some types seem to run in families.
In Italian and Middle Eastern cultures they are called voglie in Italian or wiham in Arabic, both of which translate to "wishes" because, according to folklore, they are caused by unsatisfied wishes of the mother during pregnancy. For example, if a pregnant woman does not satisfy a sudden wish or craving for strawberries, it's said that the infant might bear a strawberry mark.
A number of different types of birthmarks are known that include, but are not limited to, stork bites, Mongolian blue spots, strawberry marks, café au lait spots, congenital melanocytic nevi, and port-wine stains.
|Common name||Also known as||Color||Shape||Size||Location||Frequency||Prognosis||Treatment|
|Stork Bite, Angels Kiss||Salmon patch or Telangiectatic naevus.||Pink.||Irregular and flat.||Less than three inches tall and wide.||Neck, head or top-lip.||Nearly half of newborns have a stork bite (angels kiss).||Most fade by the end of the first year. There are no known health problems.||None.|
|Mongolian Blue Spot,||Blue bum, nevus fuscocaerulius, blue spot, sacral spot, Mongolian macula.||Bluish, bruise-like.||Irregular and flat.||About ten centimetres across.||Lower back and bottom.||Most common in darker skinned people, especially noticeable in East Asian people.||May not appear until sometime after birth, but gradually fade. No health problems, but they have been mistaken for abuse bruises by over-zealous social workers or medical staff.||None.|
|Strawberry mark||Capillary haemangioma.||Red.||Raised and lumpy.||Can appear anywhere on the body.||One in twenty births.||The mark usually appears between one and four weeks, it can then grow rapidly, before stopping and slowly fading. Sixty percent of marks have vanished by five years, and ninety percent have gone by age ten.||Surgery or laser treatment is not generally recommended, unless the mark is blocking vision or breathing, because of the risk of scarring.|
|Café au lait spot||Light brown, milk coffee color.||Oval.||Can appear anywhere on the body.||Having one or two spots is common.||There are no health problems associated with one or two spots, although three or more can be an indicator of neurofibromatosis. The spots do not fade with age.||Cosmetic|
|Congenital melanocytic nevus||Giant Congenital Hairy Nevus||light brown (in fair skinned people) to almost black (in darker skinned people).||Irregular, small marks usually flat, large ones can be raised and lumpy.||From under a centimeter to over 30 centimeters.||Can appear anywhere on the body||About one in a hundred births.||Some, but not all, studies have suggested a cancer risk is associated with large marks. Some marks are associated with a build up of melanin in the spinal cord, a condition called neurocutaneous melanosis. Naevi close to the eye are associated with glaucoma. Large visible marks can have a psychological impact.||Surgical removal is an option, but will usually lead to scarring. The marks should be watched as sudden changes can be a sign of cancer.|
|Port wine stain||Nevus Flammeus||Pale pink at birth, becoming darker with age to a deep wine red.||Irregular.||Usually large, more than ten centimeters across.||Often on the face||Three in one thousand births.||The mark does not fade. Marks around the eye are associated with glaucoma. There can be a psychological impact.||Laser treatment is usually effective.|
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- Information about living with Birthmarks