Port wine stains have been a significant form of birthmarks for centuries. Less than 100 years ago, these birthmarks were less understood than they are now. As recently as World War II, those with visible birthmarks were treated as flawed and imperfect and were deemed less than a person with no visible marks. While society across the world has become more intelligent and civilized than under Hitler’s demonic regime, many people still face social issues as a direct result of a birthmark that is visible on the face.
Port wine stains are dark areas of the skin caused by a type of vascular malformation. A port wine stain on the face can be a sign of the Sturge-Weber syndrome. For centuries, people tried to put a folk tale around the occurrences of port wine stains. Many people wanted to claim that a pregnant mother spilled red wine on her stomach during her pregnancy, causing the baby to be born with a stain. Others said that a pregnant woman grew extremely angry before giving birth and cursed her unborn child with a stain. These folk tales are now seen as foolish reasonings behind what could not be explained less than a century ago. However, it is now understood that port wine stains are a type of venular or capillary malformation. The “stain” is an area of skin in where the small veins just under the surface of the skin are dilated. This dilation increases the amount of blood in the veins and will impart a reddish stain to the skin.
The intensity of color of the port wine stain will vary as blood flow varies. Just as a person blushes with feelings of embarrassment or grows red-faced when hot or angry, the flow of oxygenated blood will fluctuate with a person who has a port wine stain. The reddish discoloration may appear slightly darker than the rest of the skin at times, and then it may appear deep purple at other times. The process of aging also affects the port wine stain. The blood vessels will have a steady dilation over time, increasing the intensity of color. As the amount of elastin and collagen decrease in the body with age, the port wine stain will also thicken – sometimes forming nodules called cobblestones, which can grow quite large when left untreated.
Dr. Milton Waner and the interdisciplinary team at the Vascular Birthmark Institute of New York are an elite group of doctors who are using specialized surgical techniques to help infants, children, teens, and adults with severe deformities find effective treatment. If you or a loved one is suffering from a port wine stain, please contact the Vascular Birthmark Institute of New York today. Our doctors provide world-renown skill and experience to bring world-class care to patients of all ages.