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Laser Birthmark Removal

Child with Birthmark

Birthmarks are splotches on the skin that vary in size, shape and color. They can appear anywhere on the skin, from an inconspicuous place to a location that is more prominent, such as on the face. In some cases, birthmarks can become a health risk, especially on the face or eyelids as they can be a sign of eye or brain problems.

Some birthmarks fade or go away completely on their own while others do not. There are four classifications of birthmarks which can occur, and all vary in property and severity.

Hemangioma’s are lesions that develop on infants within a few weeks after birth. Many tiny blood vessels bunched together that grow quite rapidly cause this type of birthmark. These are the most common tumors found in infants and are usually found around the head and neck. Sometimes, this type of birthmark will grow on internal organs that are identified through discolorations on the skin. Hemangiomas may disappear within a few months but most take years to fade or disappear.

Salmon patches on the skin are known as macular stains and are thin, light pink/salmon colored patches of discoloration. They usually appear on babies and most commonly on the upper eyelids or the back of the neck. Patches that appear on the upper eyelids usually disappear within the first year, however patches on the back of the neck most often do not disappear.

Pigmentation type birthmarks can include various types of birthmarks including coffee-cream spots, Mongolian spots and moles. Coffee-cream spots are caused by too much pigment in the skin and do not fade away. They are not severe and do not require treatment or removal. Mongolian spots are usually slate blue to gray flat patches and are commonly found in children. They usually fade and disappear on their own in the first five years. Moles usually pose no health risk; however they can be a sign of melanoma or skin cancer and may have cancerous effects later on in life.

Vascular malformations are caused by abnormal development of blood vessels and are most always present from birth. A very common birthmark is the port-wine stain, and is a type of vascular malformation. These can be found anywhere on the body and usually start out as pink to red at birth and darken to a deeper red-purple after a few years. These port-wine stain birthmarks do not fade or go away. If a port-wine stain is located on the face or around the eye area, they may be a concern as they are associated with eye and brain problems.

Birthmarks can now be removed with the advent of laser technology. By using a high-energy pulsing laser, birthmarks can now be easily and precisely removed. Laser surgery is nearly painless, and usually requires no anesthetic. Only a slight tingling sensation is usually felt while no pain or discomfort appears.

The laser treatment is used to lighten the dark tones of birthmarks, and in the cases of some lighter toned birthmarks, such as coffee-cream birthmarks, the tone of the original birthmark can be evened out completely and disappear. Port-wine stain birthmarks require more intensive laser treatment. Several laser treatments, spaced apart by a period of several months, are required to lighten port-wine stain birthmarks.

Laser treatments of birthmarks can take anywhere from only a few minutes to several hours, depending on the size, shape and intensity of the birthmark. Laser birthmark removal procedures are usually done at an in-office appointment or in a doctor’s surgical suite, depending on the intensity of the treatment required. No hospital, or over night stay, is required.

There is very little healing time after the removal of a birthmark. In some cases, some bruising and tenderness may occur at the site of the birthmark, but usually fades within one week.

The risks to laser birthmark removal are minimal. In some cases, uneven skin tone, excessively light or dark areas of skin may occur. There is some risk of ‘patches’ forming, darker areas surrounded by lighter areas of treated skin. Most of these cosmetic risks are corrected by a secondary laser treatment. In some cases, although quite rare, some bleeding, scabbing and bruising can occur.

Birthmark removal is done for many reasons, from the patient’s dislike of their appearance to facets of more severe medical problems, like increased risk of glaucoma or seizures if the birthmark is on, above or near the eye area. For many patients, it is simply to increase self-esteem that they view the birthmark as lowering the quality of their appearance. By removing the birthmark, or lightening it, patients exhibit an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence.

It is important to remember that laser treatment is not always successful at removing a birthmark. Sometimes the pigmentation of a birthmark is too deep for a laser to penetrate. It can result in this darker pigmentation of a birthmark to again rise to the surface and have the birthmark darken further or reappear. In most cases, more laser treatments can be effectively used to reduce the pigmentation as the darker pigment rises closer to the skin’s surface.

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