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The most common capillary malformation is the Port Wine Stain. Named for its darker reddish color that resembles a blotch of spilled red wine, this birthmark appears as an irregular reddish stain on the skin. It is caused by the capillaries, small blood vessels, being just underneath the skin. This makes them more visible, hence the reddish appearance.

Some stains can be darker, from a more concentrated group of blood vessels, while others may be lighter when the capillaries are more geographically spaced. As blood flow increases, such as during physical exertion or stress, port wine stains can become darker. They can also darken with age, as elastin and collagen wane with age and the skin becomes more transparent.

Why Do Port Wine Stains Occur?

Port wine stains have not been found to have any genetic connections. They do not run in families. They have also not been connected to any prenatal behaviors by the mother. You did not do anything to cause your child to be born with a port wine stain birthmark. Although many old wives’ fables exist relating to birthmarks, none have a basis in science when it comes to port wine stains. They simply occur at random, showing up in about one in every thousand births.

How are Port Wine Stains and Sturge Weber Syndrome Connected?

Port wine stains are not a definitive sign of Sturge Weber Syndrome. They can occur anywhere on the body, even in more than one location. Their connection with Sturge Weber Syndrome is when they occur around the upper facial, eye region. This is often a sign of the syndrome, along with eye abnormalities and abnormal blood vessels in the brain.

Any child born with a port wine stain on the face around the eye should be evaluated by a vascular specialist for Sturge Weber Syndrome. Not every facial port wine stain is accompanied by Sturge Weber Syndrome.

A specialist will likely employ a variety of modern computerized imaging techniques to identify and assess any neurological complications that can indicate the presence of Sturge Weber Syndrome. These can include:

  • Skull radiography (X-rays of the head)
  • MRI with gadolinium contrast
  • CT scan of the head and brain
  • EEG to detect and localize any seizure activity
  • Transcranial doppler to detect any blood flow abnormalities

Treatment Options

Laser therapy is the most effective treatment for port wine stains. The laser energy heats and destroys the offending capillaries, causing them to be reabsorbed by the body. This eventually eliminates the appearance of the reddish stain. Several treatments are usually necessary. The type of laser used will depend on the patient’s age, the particular manifestation of their port wine stain and skin type. The specialists at Vascular Birthmark Institute can perform these treatments. Contact us today for a consultation about port wine stain treatment for you or your child.

A diagnosis of Sturge Weber Syndrome will be referred to a specialist that focuses on this particular condition. More information can be obtained at Our specialists at Vascular Birthmark Institute can also provide more information, including referrals if needed.

Posted on behalf of Vascular Birthmark Institute

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