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Port-Wine Stains

(Capillary Malformation; Nevus Flammeus; Stork Bite)

By Denise M. Aaron, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; Staff Physician, Veterans Administration Medical Center, White River Junction

Port-wine stains are flat pink, red, or purplish discolorations present at birth due to malformed blood vessels.

Port-wine stains are harmless, permanent discolorations. However, their cosmetic appearance may be psychologically bothersome or even devastating. They appear as flat pink, red, or purple patches of skin. Port-wine stains may be small or may cover large areas of the body. Port-wine stains that appear on the nape of the neck of newborns have been referred to as stork bites.

Rarely, facial port-wine stains appear as part of Sturge-Weber syndrome, a rare disorder present at birth that is associated with neurologic problems such as seizures and intellectual disability.

Some port-wine stains can be covered with cosmetic cover-up cream. If a stain is bothersome, its appearance can be greatly improved with laser therapy (see Using Lasers to Treat Skin Problems), especially if the stain is treated as early in life as possible.

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