Port wine stains and salmon patches

Posted on 08 Feb, 2012

Both salmon patches and port wine stains are birthmarks that are caused by abnormalities in blood vessels beneath the surface of the skin.

Salmon patches are very common and are thought to affect at least fifty per cent of healthy infants. Unlike port wine stains, salmon patches tend to be paler and are due to tiny blood vessels remaining dilated rather than forming abnormally. They usually appear on the head or neck, and those on the face tend to fade with time.

Port wine stains appear when capillaries develop abnormally and whereas salmon patches are likely to fade as the capillaries contract, port wine stains will grow with the child and can darken. They can also become raised with time, and the surface of the skin can appear lumpy. Depending on where a port wine stain occurs, they can cause cosmetic problems and more rarely, more serious health problems.

Birthmark removal can help to improve the appearance of port wine stains, by causing the affected capillaries to collapse and disintegrate. Advanced intense pulsed light is applied to the skin, where the haemoglobin absorbs the light energy. It is transformed into heat energy, causing the temperature within the capillaries to rise until they begin to break down and the birthmark to fade.