A port-wine stain is a birthmark. It is made of enlarged blood vessels. This makes the birthmark appear as a reddish-purple patch of skin. They can occur anywhere but are most common on the head and neck.
Port-wine stains are usually present at birth. They are often flat at first and raise up as the child ages. It may also get darker as the child grows. Other port-wine stains may develop at an older age, but this is rare. These types may occur after a traumatic injury.
Port-wine stains are generally harmless. They may cause emotional and social problems due to their visibility.
Port wine stains care caused by a problem with the small blood vessels in the skin. Blood vessels can normally open and close to meet the needs of the skin. In port wine stains, the blood vessels stay wide open. Blood fills the vessels causing the purple color and raised skin. It is not clear what causes the problems with the blood vessels.
There are no known risk factors for port-wine stains.
Symptoms include a birthmark that is:
- Reddish or purplish in color (in adults)
- Flat, red or light purple lesion (in children)
- May be raised in adults
- Typically occurs on the head or neck
- May bleed if scratched
- Darkens and may become thicker with age
Port-wine stains can typically be diagnosed based on its appearance. In some rare cases, a doctor may request a
. A small sample of the skin will be removed
to confirm a port-wine stain.
A port-wine stain near the eyes may cause other problems. Some stains may also be associated with other medical conditions. Your doctor may order other tests to look for any of these related conditions.
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Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Laser treatment may be used to destroy the blood vessels causing the stain. There are some risks with laser treatment. It may result in scarring and skin lightening or darkening.
Flash-lamp pumped pulse dye laser is one type used with port wine stains. Multiple treatments may be necessary.
Other treatment options include freezing, surgery, tattooing, and radiation. These treatment have had limited success. Lasers have replaced most of these treatments.
Port-wine stains cannot be prevented.
American Academy of Dermatology
Vascular Birthmarks Foundation
Canadian Dermatology Association
Alster TS, Tanzi EL. Combined 595-nm and 1,064-nm laser irradiation of recalcitrant and hypertrophic port-wine stains in children and adults.
. 2009 Jun;35(6):914-8.
Duke aesthetic services: port-wine stain treatment. Duke University Medical Center website. Available at:
Accessed December 7, 2012.
Jasim ZF, Handley JM. Treatment of pulsed dye laser-resistant port wine stain birthmarks.
J Am Acad Dermatol
. 2007 Oct;57(4):677-82.
Port-wine stain information. Vascular Birthmark Foundation website. Available at:
Accessed December 7, 2012.
Port Wine Stain. Nemours KidsHealth website. Available at:
. Accessed December 7, 2012.