The title of this blog post has definitely been one of our most frequently asked questions over the past several weeks. Having been in the field of cosmetic laser dermatology for nearly two decades, we here at Maine Laser Skin Care have evaluated and treated many types and locations of birthmarks.
The term "birthmark" generally refers to a congenital malformation of blood vessels, giving them their characteristic red or maroon color, that affect less than 1% of the population. The most common birthmark is known as a port-wine stain due to its appearance as if wine has been spilled on the skin.
Birthmarks are present at birth (hence the name), but many of them will diminish or resolve over time as the child grows older. However, many others like the classic port-wine stain can increase in size with age and even persist for life.
These areas are also commonly seen on the face and neck. As a result, studies have shown that people with birthmarks on skin areas that are not easily covered experience significantly high psychological distress and impaired quality of life.
Since birthmarks are most commonly vascular in origin, researchers have attempted many methods to address blood vessels over the years with varying results. Currently, lasers are the gold standard treatment of choice with great levels of safety and effectiveness.
The basic mechanism is that the precisely targeted laser beam causes the individual blood vessels to collapse. The body then quickly reabsorbes these debilitated capillaries.
To treat birthmarks, just like many other vascular conditions such as rosacea, we apply a topical numbing cream to the skin. This ointment reduces the rubber snap-type pain when the laser beam hits the blood vessel and causes it to collapse.
Immediately after the laser treatment, the treated skin areas will appear red and swollen due to the heat generated by the laser. This side effect is generally improved when cold compresses such as ice packs are applied directly to these areas over the next few hours. Bruising is also a common but limited side effect that can last up to several weeks.
Birthmarks in general, and port-wine stains specifically, can be a challenge, as there is no enduring cure. However, the basic treatment of using laser to selectively collapse blood vessels can improve overall appearance, and reduce the social anxiety associated with these lesions.
We here at Maine Laser Skin Care have had extensive experience treating these kinds of vascular skin lesions. With the use of our laser, we can certainly improve the appearance of such lesions with high patient satisfaction.
If you or a loved one have a pesky birthmark in an area of the skin that clothing can't cover, call us to schedule a free consultation either at (207) 303-0125 in Scarborough, or (207) 873-2158 in Augusta. Also, if you have any other skin-related questions, not only can we directly answer them, but we also may address the issue in a future blog post.