Understanding Port Wine Stains
What are port wine stains?
Present on the skin from birth, port wine stains usually take on the form of flat, red-to-purple birthmarks that can appear anywhere on the body, but most prominently the face, neck or limbs. In up to a reported 85% of cases, these coloured marks are confined to one side of the body and can vary greatly in size, ranging from a few millimetres in length to several centimetres in diameter.
The cause of port wine stains is unknown, with most discounting genetics as a factor. It is commonly believed, however, that port wine stains appear due to a malfunctioning of the nerves that control the widening and narrowing of capillaries, or tiny blood vessels, in a particular area of the body. Blood is then pushed to the affected area in a constant supply, giving port wine stains their distinctive dark colouring.
In addition to their visibility on the skin, the presence of port wine stains can result in a number of accompanying conditions dependent on their position on the body of those affected. Those who have port wine stains that cover the skin around the eye run the risk of developing glaucoma, a condition that affects eye pressure and can potentially lead to blindness. Port wine stains can also linked to a diagnosis of Sturge-Weber syndrome, a condition that can affect the brain and lead to seizures. Newborn babies born with port wine stains are always assessed for these conditions by specialists as early as possible.
Growing up with a port wine stain
Many people with a port wine stain will receive laser treatment in childhood. After a small test is carried out to determine how an individual will react to this treatment, children embark on a number of laser therapy sessions.
Such procedures consist of a laser sending a beam of light to the affected area of skin and heating this up in order to reduce the redness and prominence of the port wine stain’s appearance. A successful series of treatments will see the port wine stain fade in colour and become less visible to the eye. Some people even choose to use cosmetic camouflage (a water-resistant make-up) on a daily basis to further cover up the appearance of the stain.
If port wine stains aren’t treated as they should be during childhood, it may be harder to reduce the deeper colours and effects of these in adulthood. Regardless of early treatment, port wine stains can also develop further nuances as those affected grow older. In some cases, port wine stains can deepen in colour and play host to raised bumps. Blood vessel blisters, also known as papules, can appear on the port wine stain, making this area prone to bleeding. This change in appearance may necessitate further laser treatment or surgery.
How Dr Firas can help
Dr Firas Al-Niami, world-renowned medical dermatologist, has a wide working knowledge of skin conditions and a wealth of experience in using laser technology to treat a whole host of skin conditions, including port wine stains. Following a comprehensive first consultation, Dr Firas will be able to identify the best course of treatment for anyone looking to partake in laser therapy for a port wine stain, treating the personal circumstances and desired outcomes of every individual patient with the utmost consideration.
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