All About Birthmarks

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You may feel like you know a friend really well if you know their hometown, favorite color, and middle name. However, another great identifying mark-and sometimes interesting topic of conversation-is a birthmark. Some estimates say that 1 out of 10 children have a birthmark, although some of these marks do fade with time. Here's an overview of the history, types, and treatments for these marks.

Throughout the Middle Ages into the 18th century, it was thought that the emotions and mental state of the mother could affect her unborn baby's appearance-translating into a birthmark. For example, if a mom craved raspberries while pregnant with her child, she might give birth to a baby with a reddish, raspberry-shaped mark on its body. In Italian folklore, one of these spots might be a representation of a mother's unfulfilled wish.

During history as "heretics" were sought out and burned, a birthmark became a dangerous thing to have. Some viewed as a mark of the devil, and women with these blemishes were at risk of being fingered as a witch. Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "The Birth-Mark," is about a man who grows to loathe his wife's blemish so much that he eventually leads her to her death.

Contrastingly, some birthmarks are actually called Angel's kisses. These reddish-colored spots are said to represent an injury sustained by a person in his or her previous life, according to some Inuit and Native American legends. Rather than being a bad thing, these marks can be seen as proof that a person needed to come back and be reincarnated.

Birthmarks can be loosely divided into two categories: dark spots caused by hyperpigmentation, or reddish colored stains formed from abnormal blood vessels, called vascular malformations. Extreme pigmentation birthmarks are also known as cafe-au-lait spots, coffee-cream spots, nevi, moles, and Mongolian spots. Atypical blood vessel formations create port-wine stains, salmon patches, venous stains, and several types of hemangiomas, including strawberries and cavernous hemangiomas.

Depending on the type of birthmark, there are several options for removal or surgically fading for some blemishes, while others fade away on their own. Other birthmarks cannot really be removed at all. For example, cafe-au-lait patches can be faded with laser treatment, but they often return despite the procedure.

The vascular malformation birthmarks, also called macular marks, tend to fade on their own. This includes Angel's kisses and stork bites. They typically disappear before a child reaches the age to start kindergarten, but occasionally they will remain or take a longer time to fade.

For moles, some hemangiomas, and port wine stains, among others, the removal process most often utilized by doctors is some sort of laser fading. These can be unsightly and embarrassing marks, and so eliminating the birthmark may help boost your child's self-esteem if the blemish is in an obvious or noticeable location.

Lastly, some birthmarks require surgery to cut out the spot. This can include large, deep moles or nevi, or strawberry and cavernous hemangiomas. This is because moles can sometimes be precursors to cancer, and hemangiomas are occasionally located in a spot that obscures a child's vision, hearing, etc.

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Joseph Devine has 1 articles online

For more information on birthmark removal or fading, check out this Vein & Dermatology website.

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All About Birthmarks

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This article was published on 2010/03/29