Port Wine Stains – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


A port wine stain is usually a large flat patch of purple or dark red skin with well-defined borders. The size of port wine stains is from a few millimeters to many centimeters in diameter. They may occur on the face, trunk or limbs. It occurs in about 0.3% of newborns. These can occur equally among males and females.


Port wine stains develop in areas lacking the small nerves that control the ability of blood vessels to constrict. As a result, the blood vessels stay open all the time and this shows up as a permanent blush in the area.

Port-wine stains may be one of a group of symptoms and signs, perhaps as part of a syndrome such as Sturge-Weber syndrome or Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome.


Port-wine stains mostly occur on the face but can appear anywhere on the body. Early colors are usually flat and pink in appearance. As the child grows, the color may deepen to a dark red or purplish color.

Port-wine stains that involve the upper and lower lids may be associated with the development of glaucoma.

Another difference is that port wine stains are permanent. It is fact that they can not be better without best treatment. In fact, they can progress and darken, growing as the child grows, or leading to thickening and ‘cobbling’ of the skin.


The diagnosis is usually made by the physical appearance. A skin biopsy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Depending on the location of the birthmark and other associated symptoms, a physician may choose to order a measurement of intraocular pressure or X-ray of the skull.

Port wine stains are permanent unless treated. Many treatments have been tried for port-wine stains including freezing, surgery, radiation, and tattooing. The best treatment available for port wine stains is Candel laser treatment. Many treatment sessions may be needed. Laser is a high-energy light source. This type of laser only targets blood vessels. It destroys the blood vessels that make up the birthmark without injuring the skin on top. Many treatment sessions are usually needed and it is not always successful.

Australia and other countries to respond to treatment with the flashlamp-pumped dye laser. This treatment is often urgent or semiurgent, depending on the rate of proliferation of the haemangioma or rate of ulceration and tissue destruction. Cosmetic or camouflage creams are often very helpful and expert advice is available in special British Red Cross clinics based at selected dermatology centres. Changing Faces and the Disfigurement Guidance Centre also offer a comprehensive service for patients and their families with all types of birthmarks.

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