Port-wine Stain


A port-wine stain is a red or purple mark on the skin. It is usually present from birth. About 3 in 1,000 babies are born with a port-wine stain. Most occur on the face but any area can be affected. Port-wine stains affect males and females equally. They are not hereditary.

What do port-wine stains look like?

Port-wine stains vary in size from a few millimeters across to many centimeters. Their color can vary from pale red to deep purple. By middle age the overlying skin can become thickened and lumpy

What causes port-wine stains?

A port-wine stain is a localized blood vessel problem. The tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in port-wine stains remain dilated (wide). The reason why this occurs is thought to be due to a damaged or faulty nerve supply to the affected tiny blood vessels.

What are the symptoms of port-wine stains?

Apart from their appearance, no other symptoms or problems occur in most cases. However, about 1 in 10 babies born with a port-wine stain on the face have problems of the eye or brain.

Eye problems may develop if the port-wine stain is on the eyelid area.

Brain abnormalities are an uncommon association with port-wine stains of the face. This is due to extensive blood vessel abnormalities in the brain (the Sturge-Weber syndrome).

What is the treatment for port-wine stains?

Port-wine stains may improve with time but never disappear. Laser treatment is usually the treatment of choice for port-wine stains, especially in children.

Laser treatment

A special fine laser can destroy the tiny widened blood vessels. Laser treatment may not clear the port-wine stain completely and repeat treatments are often needed over the years to come. Treatment works best in young children when the port-wine stain is new and flat. Children as young as two months old can be treated. Treatment tends to work best on smaller port-wine stains of the face and less well.

The laser can cause an unpleasant stinging. Therefore, younger children usually have laser treatment under a general anesthetic or with sedation. Treatments are given about eight weeks apart. It is best to have completed all sessions before a child reaches five years.

Skin camouflage

This is still a common way of covering port-wine stains. Special colored cover creams can be put on port-wine stains to improve the skin's appearance. The aim is to find a color to match the normal skin.

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