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Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Port-Wine Stains


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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What are port-wine stains?

Port-wine stains are pink, red, or purple patches on the skin. Many such patches have a color like port wine. The patches are made of many tiny blood vessels that grow incorrectly.

  • Port-wine stains are a type of birthmark, so babies are born with them

  • Port-wine stains don't go away on their own

  • Port-wine stains at the back of a newborn baby’s neck are sometimes given the nickname "stork bites"

  • They don’t hurt or itch, but some people are bothered by the way they look

Rarely, port-wine stains on a baby's face are a sign of a disorder that can cause seizures and other health problems. This disorder is called Sturge-Weber syndrome.

What are the symptoms of port-wine stains?

Port-wine stains:

  • Are flat, not raised

  • Are purple, red, or pink, and may darken as a child grows

  • Cover a small or large area of skin

How do doctors treat port-wine stains?

Port-wine stains are harmless. Some can be covered up with makeup if you don't like the way they look.

Doctors can make port-wine stains fade or disappear using laser therapy. With laser therapy, a strong beam of light is aimed at the port-wine stain. This treatment works better in younger people.

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