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Skin Conditions: Pigmented Birthmarks

What Causes Pigmented Birthmarks?

The cause of pigmented birthmarks is not known. However, the amount and location of melanin (a substance that determines skin color) determines the color of pigmented birthmarks.

What Are the Symptoms of Pigmented Birthmarks?

Symptoms of pigmented birthmarks include skin that is abnormally dark or light, or bluish, brown, black or blue-gray in color. Discolorations of the skin may vary in size and can be smooth, flat, raised or wrinkled. Pigmented birthmarks may increase in size, change colors, become itchy, and may occasionally bleed.

How Are Pigmented Birthmarks Diagnosed?

In most cases, health care professionals can diagnose birthmarks based on the appearance of the skin. If a mole exhibits potentially cancerous changes, a biopsy may be performed.

How Are Pigmented Birthmarks Treated?

In most cases, no treatment is needed for the birthmarks themselves. When birthmarks do require treatment, however, that treatment varies based on the kind of birthmark and its related conditions.

Large or prominent moles that affect appearance and self-esteem may be covered with special cosmetics. Moles can also be removed surgically.

Warning Signs

Since there is an increased risk of skin cancer in congenital nevi, see a doctor if you notice a change in color, size, or texture of a mole or other skin lesion. Also, see a doctor right away if there is any pain, bleeding, itching, inflammation, or ulceration of a congenital mole or other skin lesion.

Can Pigmented Birthmarks Be Prevented?

There is no known way to prevent birthmarks. People with birthmarks should use a good quality sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when outdoors in order to prevent complications.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on June 30, 2012
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