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borders. The size of port wine stains is from a few millimeters to many centimeters in diameter. They may occur on the face, trunk or limbs.  It occurs in about 0.3% of newborns.  These can occur equally among males and females. Due to an abnormal aggregation of capillaries, a port wine stain is a type of hemangioma. A port wine stain on the face is a sign of the Sturge-Weber syndrome.

They are composed of enlarged capillaries in the skin. At first, port wine stains are flat. Over time, lumps and bumps can occur on the surface of the birthmark.


A port wine stain is a localised blood vessel problem. Tiny blood vessels can normally narrow or widen depending on circumstances. This allows different amounts of blood to the skin surface. The more blood, the redder the skin. Port-wine stains may be one of a group of symptoms and signs, perhaps as part of a syndrome such as Sturge-Weber syndrome or Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome.


Port-wine stains mostly occur on the face but can appear anywhere on the body. Early colors are usually flat and pink in appearance. As the child grows, the color may deepen to a dark red or purplish color.
Port-wine stains that involve the upper and lower lids may be associated with the development of glaucoma.
Common symptoms are-

  • Usually present at birth
  • Is usually a flat pink-to-purplish lesion on skin in infants
  • Most commonly seen on face and neck
  • Is usually slightly more reddish-to-purplish lesion, flat to slightly raised in older children
  • Is usually darkly red-to-purplish lesion in adults


The diagnosis is usually made by the physical appearance. A skin biopsy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Depending on the location of the birthmark and other associated symptoms, a physician may choose to order a measurement of intraocular pressure or X-ray of the skull.

The flashlamp pumped dye laser, a yellow light laser, has been the most successful at destroying stains in infants and young children. Two other yellow light lasers the copper vapor and krypton laser have been used successfully in adults.

Cosmetic or camouflage creams are often very helpful and expert advice is available in special British Red Cross clinics based at selected dermatology centers. Changing Faces and the Disfigurement Guidance Centre also offer a comprehensive service for patients and their families with all types of birthmarks.

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