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AAD: Treatment of Common Birthmarks Evaluated

Last Updated: February 08, 2011.

The type and timing of treatment of common birthmarks among infants should be dependent upon defining characteristics, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, held from Feb. 4 to 8 in New Orleans.

TUESDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- The type and timing of treatment of common birthmarks among infants should be dependent upon defining characteristics, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, held from Feb. 4 to 8 in New Orleans.

Sheila Fallon Friedlander, M.D., of the University of California in San Diego, discussed which birthmarks should be treated in infancy and the most effective treatments for red, white, and brown birthmarks. Infantile hemangiomas are the most common types of red birthmarks and appear on the skin at birth or shortly after as small strawberry-shaped bumps or flat spots. These birthmarks grow during the first two to six months and then stop growing. Typically, most infantile hemangiomas will disappear on their own, but there are some instances where treatment would be recommended, Friedlander said in the presentation. She discussed these hemangioma treatment options, including propranolol, a drug used to treat high blood pressure. Other treatments for hemangiomas include systemic steroids and intralesional steroid therapy. Friedlander noted that all treatments may be associated with side effects.

White birthmarks are generally harmless, but can sometimes result in a permanent loss of pigmentation in the affected area. Finally, Friedlander said that a type of brown birthmark, congenital nevus, may develop into melanoma. However, a less concerning brown birthmark, café au lait, does not appear to pose a medical concern unless multiple birthmarks or a very large spot are present.

"If a patient has multiple café au lait birthmarks, they need to be evaluated by a dermatologist for other associated conditions. In particular, the health care provider needs to rule out neurofibromatosis -- a genetically inherited disorder in which the nerve tissues grow tumors," Friedlander said in a statement. "For patients who want to treat a cosmetically troublesome facial café au lait birthmark, various lasers exist which can be useful."

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