Birthmarks: Types, Causes, and Warnings

Coloured spots on your skin that were present at your birth or appeared shortly after your birth are called birthmarks. Birthmarks are seen in different colours such as whiten red, purple, pale blue, tan, brown, pink or black. Birthmarks either raise above the skin or they extend into the tissues under the skin. Sometimes, the birthmark is not more than just a colouration of the skin surface.

Some birthmarks are inherited. However, the exact causes are not known yet. There are many tales and myths about birthmarks but none of them is proven true.

Do they need to be treated?

Mostly birthmarks fade away as the child grows so they don’t need any treatment. But in some cases, birthmarks need to be treated due to their locations or dangerous situation. For example, an increased birthmark near a child’s eye requires treatment because it can damage a child’s ability to see.

There are some rare conditions in which birthmarks are linked with other conditions such as growth on the liver, lung, stomach and intestines.

Types of birthmarks:

Birthmarks are categorised in two main types:

  • Red birthmarks:

They appear shortly after birth. They are coloured vascular skin marking.

  • Pigmented birthmarks:

These are present at birth. Their colour range is from brown, black to bluish or blue-grey.

Types of pigmented birthmarks:

There are several types of pigmented birthmarks including:

  • Mongolian spots:

Mongolian spots look like bruises and have bluish colour. They appear on your buttocks or lower back more often. They also appear on arms and trunk.

  • Pigmented nevi:

They are also called moles. They usually grew anywhere on flesh colour, brown and black skin. They can appear alone and also in groups.

  • Congenital nevi:

These are also birth present at birth and have risks of becoming cancer because of their developing size. Large congenital nevi have more risk of becoming cancer than smaller.

  • Cafe au-lait spots:

These spots are oval in shape and have a light tan or brown color. They appear at birth and then grow the first few years of a child’s life. These are normal birthmarks but the presence of many cafe-au-lait spots indicates signs of neurofibromatosis.

Causes of pigmented birthmarks:

Researchers are unable to find the causes of pigmented birthmark colours However, with the amount and location of melanin, the colour of these pigmented birthmarks can be found.


Abnormal dark or light, brown, bluish, black of blue-grey colors of skin are the symptoms of pigmented birthmarks. This discolouration on the skin can be different in sizes and texture. They can be smooth, flat, or maybe wrinkled. Sometimes these pigmented birthmarks can be itchy and also bleed. In this situation, you need to visit a dermatologist where a biopsy will be done.


Birthmarks are diagnosed by health care professionals. They can diagnose them by appearances. A biopsy is performed if a mole shows cancerous changes.

How are they treated?

No treatment is required for birthmarks. If they do need treatment, then treatments can be modified according to a kind of birthmark and its conditions.

Sometimes large moles that are prominent and affect appearance can be covered with makeup whereas they can also be removed surgically.


If you see any change in colour, size and texture of mole then you need to see a doctor immediately as there are risks of skin cancer in congenital nevi. Also, seek medical help if you notice these signs of conventional mole:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Ulceration

Can pigmented birthmarks be prevented?

There is no way to prevent these pigmented birthmarks. You need to use a good quality sunscreen of SPF 30 or more when you go out. This can keep these marks from getting severe.

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