Port-Wine Stain Birthmark Print E-mail

Birthmark IrelandThere are many myths surrounding the cause of birthmarks, so before we go any further, please remember that NOTHING you did before or during your pregnancy was the cause of your baby's birthmark. It was NOT that glass of red wine you had on that special occasion, or the fright you got when a cat shot across the road in front of your car! (Two myths are that drinking port wine causes birthmarks, or if you get a bad fright while pregnant the baby gets a birthmark).

About 1 in 300 children are born with a port wine stain birthmark. They can range from minimal patches to very extensive. They are more common in girls. They are flat, dark pink, red or purple in colour and are permanent if not treated. One theory as to why they develop is that the blood vessels in the affected skin lack small nerve fibres which are necessary to narrow them. This means that they are left open with increased blood flow through the affected skin. This results in a permanent blush, i.e. a port wine stain (PWS). Without treatment, the PWS become more purple in colour, and if the lip is involved the tissue may enlarge (Hypertrophy). In adults, the area can become bumpy. If they affect the eye, further investigation may be necessary.


Laser treatment may lighten the colour and decrease the size of port wine stains and thereby give significant improvement, but completely removing it is not usually possible at this time. The earlier a child begins laser treatments, the more effective they will be, and treatment can start at a very young age. The number of treatments needed or the degree of clearing depends on the stain itself, and varies with each child. It is done under a light general anaesthetic as the laser stings when being used. Birthmark IrelandIt has been likened to the snapping of an elastic band on the skin. Calpol and/or baby neurofen are given after treatment for soreness. The area looks very bruised after treatment (see picture opposite), so be ready for the stain to appear black/blue/purple after laser when your baby comes back from theatre. The bruises will appear as small circles from the laser shots. This fades after 10 days or so. An aloe vera gel is used for a few days post treatment to cool the area, and a good moisturiser applied daily, or more often as required. There are strict rules regarding the use of sunscreen too to protect the area, and all this will be explained by the dermatologist and his team.

Further information:

Further information can be obtained from the following websites:




Birthmark Ireland