A port wine stain is a type of birthmark, commonly present at birth, although they can also appear shortly afterwards. They tend to increase in size as the child grows, and the discoloration is permanent.
The mark is caused by a malformation of the blood vessels in the dermis, which is covered by normal skin tissue. The blood vessels give the mark its deep red or purple colour, hence the name ‘port wine stain’.
Blood vessel malformation of this type can occur anywhere on the body, although it more common to find them on the face or neck. This can mean that they cause emotional difficulties later in life, as they can be highly visible and difficult to camouflage.
Although most port wine stains are not harmful it is always important to consult a doctor for advice, as they can sometimes cause health complications if the vessels extend deeper into the skin.
Port wine stains can be treated using Intense Pulsed Light for birthmark removal, which can be effective in making them shrink and fade. The light causes the blood inside the vessels to heat up to a point where the vessel walls collapse and disintegrate.