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Port wine stains (capillary vascular malformation): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About port wine stains (capillary vascular malformation)

Port wine stain is medically termed as ‘Naevus flammeus’ and is a malformation of the small blood vessels of the skin. It results from pooling of the blood in the vessel which gets swollen and create a reddish discolouration of the skin. It is present right from birth and remains lifelong unless treated.

Port wine stains (capillary vascular malformation): Incidence, age and sex

Port wine stain is an uncommon problem encountered almost 0.3% of babies. Its prevalence is equal in both girls and boys.

Signs and symptoms of port wine stains (capillary vascular malformation): Diagnosis

Port wine stain can occur anywhere on body. However, it most commonly occurs on the face. It is characterized by pink coloured skin lesion at birth which may become red to purple as the child grows up. This skin discolouration is permanent and does not resolve on its own.

The diagnosis of this characteristic birthmark can be easily established by its typical appearance and location. In atypical cases, skin biopsy of affected area may be considered.

Causes and prevention of port wine stains (capillary vascular malformation)

The exact cause of port wine stain is not clear. However it is considered that congenital lack of blood supply to superficial blood vessel may cause pooling of blood in it, thereby resulting in its congestion and swelling. It may also be seen in a condition namely Sturge-Weber syndrome. There are no preventive measures for port wine stain since it is a birthmark and may appear without any apparent cause.

Port wine stains (capillary vascular malformation): Complications

The appearance of port wine stain on the face may cause intense emotional distress to the affected child. Even after treatment, it does not completely disappear and slight discolouration may be noted in its place. Occurrence of port wine stain on eyelids may hamper vision and will need immediate management.

Port wine stains (capillary vascular malformation): Treatment

Port wine stain may be treated and removed by laser surgery which involves destruction of the affected small blood vessels. Other treatment modalities include cryosurgery and radiation; however laser therapy gives the best result and is the treatment of choice. Unfortunately, complete disappearance of the stain is not possible even after adequate treatment. Not only this, recurrence of the skin lesion after treatment has been documented in some cases. Thus, regular follow up with maintenance treatment by laser therapy is recommended to achieve best results.