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Gaining their common name from the purplish or reddish patch of skin that signifies this type of capillary malformation, Port Wine Stains occur in about 1 in 300 newborns. Classified under the general category of venous malformations, Port Wine Stains occur when small blood vessels (capillaries) form close to the surface during early development in the womb.

This is commonly attributed to genetic abnormalities during fetal development. No conditions or activities a women may endure during birth are known to contribute to this condition. Port Wine Stains may be small, large, light in color or dark; most commonly, they appear on the neck or face and begin as a light coloration but grow darker over time.

Most Port Wine Stain birthmarks pose no medical risks or problems, although there is a cosmetic impact to consider. When this mark is large or located in highly visible areas, as on the face or neck, laser treatments can be used to lighten its aesthetic impact. Several treatments may be required to achieve the desired effect.

In rare cases, some Port Wine Stains may indicate other underlying conditions or complications. This is why any birthmark or Port Wine Stain should be examined by a specialist as early as possible.

Sturge-Weber Syndrome

One possible complication from a Port Wine Stain is Sturge-Weber Syndrome. This is a risk when the stain is located on the upper face, especially around the eye. The condition can affect the membranes that cover the brain and possibly result in mental retardation, seizures and/or vision loss. Some patients with this disease suffer no complications and live normal lives.

A few patients with Sturge-Weber Syndrome only suffer from eye involvement and may require treatment to preserve or correct their vision. An ophthalmologist can perform the necessary eye tests to determine the required treatments. Commonly, eye exams and an EEG to measure brain activity is part of routine testing for patients with Sturge-Weber Syndrome.

Other Syndromes

While Sturge-Weber Syndrome is the more common syndrome that can accompany a Port Wine Stain, there are several others that are possible. The vascular specialists at The Vascular Birthmark Institute can perform the needed testing and/or imaging to determine if your child has other syndromes. While rare, other syndromes that are possible include Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome, Parkes-Weber syndrome, Servelle-Martorell syndrome, Proteus syndrome, Cloves syndrome and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.

Other Vascular Malformations

Port Wine Stains that occur elsewhere on the body, especially the lower body and legs, can indicate other underlying vascular conditions like lymphatic malformations, arteriovenous malformations or venous malformations. These issues can require other, more extensive treatments if they cause circulatory or other problems. Usually, MRI or CT imaging is required to see past the Port Wine Stain and examine the other malformations to determine their extent and possible issues. Sometimes, muscles, bones and other bodily components can be involved.

The talented physicians and specialists at The Vascular Birthmark Institute can examine your child with a Port Wine Stain to determine if any medical complications exist. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children with a vascular birthmark, including Port Wine Stains, be seen by a vascular birthmark specialist as early as possible, preferably within the first three months after birth.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment, consultation and exam for your child at our New York offices if they were born with a Port Wine Stain or any other vascular birthmark.

Posted on behalf of Vascular Birthmark Institute

210 East 64th Street, 3rd Floor
New York City, NY 10065

Phone: (212) 434-4050

FAX: (212) 434-4059


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