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Can Port Wine Stain Birthmarks Be Left Untreated?

Port wine stain birthmarks are a type of skin discoloration caused by malformed capillaries resulting from a genetic defect. In most cases, port wine stains are medically harmless and don't require treatment. However, here are two times when you'll want to get the problem fixed to avoid further complications down the line.

The Stain is Located on the Trigeminal Nerve

Any part of the body can be inflicted with a port wine stain birthmark, but they most commonly occur on the face, head, and neck. Although, as noted previously, they are generally harmless, there is more cause for concern when port wine stains show up in these areas because of how the formation of these birthmarks can negatively impact the brain, eyes, mouth, and sinuses.

The problem is that the malformed capillaries causing the discoloration can interfere and impede both blood flow and nerve function, leading to a number of problems. In particular, if a port wine stain develops on the trigeminal nerve—a major cranial nerve responsible for sending signals between the face and brain—it can increase a person's risk of developing a neurological condition called Sturge-Weber syndrome. This disease is associated with seizures, weakness and paralysis, and learning disabilities.

Thus, it's important to have a port wine stain located on or near this this nerve treated as soon as possible to reduce the risk of adverse side effects of restricted blood flow and nerve function and have affected children tested for Sturge-Weber syndrome at the first available opportunity.

It Negatively Impacts Socialization

In an ideal universe, people would not be ridiculed for their appearance. Unfortunately, this is the real world and people are constantly being bullied because of perceived differences. Visible port wine stains, particularly large ones on the face and neck, can subject people to a variety of negative experiences ranging from stares from strangers to outright violence simply because they look different.

This bullying can make it challenging for children and teens to adequately socialize with others, which may hurt their growth and development. Thus, even though the stain may not be medically harmful, you should consider having the birthmark removed via treatment if it's interfering with your—or your child's—ability to socialize and function in society.

There are a few other times when a port wine stain birthmark should be removed. It's best to discuss the issue with a qualified medical professional who can do a proper evaluation and provide you with your options for treatment.

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