Frequently Asked Questions

Are birthmarks hereditary?

If you or another member of your family have a vascular birthmark and you are concerned that your child may be born with one, please know that there is NO evidence to show that vascular birthmarks are hereditary.

Currently, it is thought that some vascular birthmarks, hemangiomas in particular, may be caused from cells that break apart from the placenta and travel to the baby, becoming lodged. Placental problems may explain why some families have more than one instance of vascular birthmarks. The VBF is trying to compile data on this subject and we need to hear from you. If you have a child with a vascular birthmark and know of any problems during your pregnancy, or if you have a vascular birthmark and know that your mother had placental related pregnancy problems, we want to hear from you. Click here to find out how you can help.

Can you recommend a doctor in my area?

The VBF maintains a list of all physicians that we know of who treat vascular birthmarks. If there is not a physician listed for your state, please check a neighboring state.

Additionally, VBF's experts cannot give an opinion on any doctor you have been referred to.

If there is no physician listed in your area, please try our Discussion Forum. We have over 1500 members there, spread out all over the world and, chances are, someone there will be able to help you.

I have a black, brown, or tan birthmark. What can be done to have it removed?

Vascular birthmarks are red, blue, pink, or purple in color. Black, brown, or tan birthmarks are not vascular. They are commonly referred to as cafe-au-lait spots, congenital nevi (moles), or mongolian spots. Brown birthmarks do not usually require care unless they have irregular borders, bleed, or are located on the midline of the back or on the scalp. The type of physician you should seek is a qualified dermatologist.

All congenital nevi, or moles, should be evaluated by a physician.

A wonderful resource for this is located at the American Academy of Dermatolgy's website. There is a PDF file there for download.

Will my child's hemangioma grow more?

Hemangiomas can grow for up to 18 months and then begin a long slow regression known as involution. This involution can last from 3- 10 years. Some hemangioma don't grow at all. Some grow rapidly, some slowly. No one can predict the rate at which hemangiomas can grow.

What are the treatment options for hemangiomas?

There are many options for treatment. Which option you choose should be a decision made by the patient or parent and a qualified physician.

  • Observation: We recommend regular follow-up visits with your physician and that you photograph the lesion with something (a coin or a tape measure) in the photo to show scale.
  • Systemic corticosteroids
  • Intralesional steroids: These are steroids that are injected into the hemangioma.
  • Interferon (Aldara): This treatment may take serveral months to complete.
  • Laser treatment
  • Surgical Excision

What kind of laser treatment should we seek?

For hemangiomas, a Pulsed Dye Laser or Nd: YAG are appropriate for smaller lesions.

For port wine stains, a tunable dye laser is the treatment of choice.

Can I send you a photograph?

YES! We encourage you to send a photograph of the birthmark that you have a question about. There is a space in the Ask The Expert form for you to do just that. Please:

Only one photo.

Only .jpg, .gif, or .bmp files. We do not receive .zip files, .exe files, .doc files, or .txt files. They are kicked out of our system as their contents can be damaging or can contain viruses.

Try to minimize the file size as much as possible.

I wrote to an expert last week and haven't heard anything! What gives?

Our experts have private practices, donate their time and talents to charities when they can, and also try to have lives! While we try to have a turn-around time that is less than one week, it's not always possible.

If you need an answer sooner, please use our regular contact form. This goes to the Webmistress and then is sent to the appropriate people for an answer. Another good idea is to use our Discussion Forum, where you can post photos and get answers from experienced parents and other patients.