Port-wine stains, also known as nevus flammeus or firemarks are wine–colored discolorations on the skin; they are due to abnormal development of capillaries in the skin and are present at birth and do not fade away with age. Instead, they grow in size with age, becoming thicker, darker and change in texture from smooth to a pebbly appearance.
Though this unsightly birthmark can occur anywhere on the body, it’s more common on the face, neck, scalp or upper chest and a cause of embarrassment to the child or adult. They are associated with a loss of the nerve supply to the blood vessels. In normal skin, there are microscopic nerves that keep blood vessels constricted most of the time; in port-wine stains, the nerves are unable to control the blood vessels, hence leaving them permanently dilated with a reddened skin. They affect about 3 in every thousand babies and are random events, having no genetic linkages. Their size may vary from a few millimeters to large irregular patches, sometimes even covering and disfiguring half the face.
These stains do not disturb the child or adult’s health in any way as they are not itchy or painful; rather, they are a source of psychological distress due to their unsightliness. They cause no harm except for their increasing darkening of coloring and their awkward cobblestone-like thick and lumpy appearance which a lot of people find difficult to live with.
Laser treatment is the only course of non-invasive and effective treatment available as of now for port-wine stains. The pulsed dye laser is the treatment of choice and was developed in the 1980s. During the course of treatment, tiny pulses of laser beams are fired at the abnormal blood vessels to seal them off; usually just a tiny area is treated first to check how well the individual can tolerate the pain. On the other hand, the skin can be anesthetized locally beforehand, but if a large area has to be treated, then a general anesthesia is preferred.
Usually, treatment should be commenced at an early age when the stain is still lighter in color as against the deep purple of adulthood and the skin is still smooth and more amenable to laser treatment. This assures better results with over two-third of patients showing substantial improvement after about 6-8 sittings stretched out over a year. Improvements will only be visible after about a month of the therapy. In-between this period, there will be swelling, redness, bruising and some controllable pain, which are minor side-effects that linger for a few days after laser therapy.
The number of sessions needed is dependent on the location of the birthmark, its size and age and skin type of the patient. The sessions usually last for 2-10 minutes depending on the size of the birthmark with about 90% of cases showing varying degrees of improvement.
A visit to Dr Dixit Cosmetic Dermatology in Bangalore will get you access to one of the finest dermatologists along with the latest treatments for port-wine stains. You couldn’t get a better place for port-wine stain removal!
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The information provided in Dr. Dixit's answer is for educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice. The information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with a qualified health professional who may be familiar with your individual medical needs.