What are birthmarks?
We have all heard of birthmarks which are differently shaped marks on the skin. A birthmark is a congenital benign irregularity on the skin that appears at or shortly after birth, usually within one month of birth. The birthmarks can occur anywhere on the skin and are caused by melanocytes, keratinocytes or overgrowth of blood vessels.
What are the types of birthmarks?
Most dermatologists divide birthmarks into two major types:-
- Pigmented birthmarks: – These are caused by excess skin pigment cells including moles and Mongolian spots.
- Vascular birthmarks: – These are red birthmarks caused by increased blood vessels and include macular stains and hemangiomas.
Basically, a birthmark is a splotch on the skin and can be in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. Birthmarks can occur in inconspicuous places and may not be noticed by anyone. But in case the birthmarks are large and obtrusive, unsightly or occurring in very visible areas,they can be removed by cosmetic surgery.
Why do conspicuous birthmarks need to be treated?
If the unsightly birthmarks are in very conspicuous places, they can have many adverse effects on not only the skin but also on the person’s self esteem. Depending upon the shape and size of the birthmark it might become a point of focus of the person. This can cause unwanted attention. In rare cases (but not unheard of) birthmarks may be the symptoms of underlying health problems. They can affect vision or swallowing or breathing functions if located in these respective areas and need to be medically treated.
What is the treatment for birthmarks?
- The q-Switch Nd YAG Laser for pigmented birthmarks.
- The pulse dye laser or the Nd YAG laser for vascular birthmarks.
After initial consultation with a dermatologist, a ‘patch test’ might be performed to check if the birthmark will respond to treatment. In this test, a series of laser shots are given at varying settings over a selected area in the skin. This gives an answer to which setting works perfectly and gives the best response.
During the procedure goggles or gauze or some type of protective gear is a must for the eyes because laser light might affect them. Topical anaesthetic is preferred during treatment. But if there is a problem, a general anaesthetic may also be administered.
How does laser work?
The laser is a hand piece and a metal wand similar to a straw that is used to guide where the laser should be pointed. A certain frequency of light is emitted that can be absorbed by the blood vessels underneath and not the skin above. When the pulse dye laser is used, the excess vessels under the skin are destroyed and leaves a few purple spots like a healing bruise that will help the birthmark lighten over a period of 4 – 10 weeks by removing the old vessels and lightening the appearance to the treated area. Multiple sessions are needed to reduce the birthmark depending on the size, depth etc. of the birthmark.
In case of pigment reduction laser, the laser beam targets excess melanocytes and destroys them so as to lighten the skin and reduce the pigmented birthmarks after a series of sessions.
Since laser is a highly concentrated beam of energy, it can penetrate deeply without any damage to the top layers of the skin. Once the laser light reaches the deeper layers, they are stimulated to produce the natural collagen and other proteins that make the skin healthy and youthful looking.
The laser treatment is a non surgical skin treatment procedure recommended by dermatologists for various reasons, mainly the relative lack of pain and very little downtime. Birthmark removal can be done effectively using lasers in very less time and can completely alter the appearance of a person.
What are the after effects?
Though laser birthmark removal treatment is basically a non surgical procedure dermatologists recommend that patients follow certain precautionary measures and take post operative care.
Due to the intense laser beams used in the birthmark removal treatment, the skin where the treatment was done might appear blotchy for hours after the treatment is finished. Patients should not worry if the actual brown areas become a darker brown, as this pigmented skin falls off (washes off) naturally after a week or ten days.
Using high quality sun screen with good sun protection force is an essential because pigmentation is the main reason for birthmarks and lack of sunscreen might cause reappearance of pigmentation or hyperpigmentation on exposure to sun, worsening the problems of sensitive skin.
While the treatment and intensity levels are decided on many factors including the skin type, colour and depth of the birthmark, sometimes the birthmark might not completely disappear, and may slowly fade into a lighter colour. If the patient is not satisfied with the results, they may choose to go for additional treatment sessions that will help in reducing the colour further.
Other than the sun protection and safe guarding against some natural elements for a few days, laser remains one of the safest non surgical skin treatment procedures ever. Please visit http://skindoctorindia.com/procedures-and-treatments/lasers/birthmark–removal/ for more details.
Dr. Rinky Kapoor of Mumbai, India is one of the best dermatologists. She is currently practicing in Mumbai, India, and is a consultant cosmetic dermatologists, trichologist at the S L Raheja Fortis Hospital in Mumbai, India. She has brought the best cosmetic and expert dermatology care to affordable levels and is a reliable specialist.