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Port Wine Stains


What is a Port Wine Stain?

A port wine stain is a vascular birthmark that resembles wine spilled across the skin. It is a relatively rare condition that is apparent at birth and only occurs in about three out of every 1,000 children. Port wine stains typically appear on faces, arms and legs but can appear anywhere on the skin of the body. They are not harmful and in the vast majority of cases, do not indicate an underlying health concern. The main concern for many with port wine stains is the emotional and psychological impact of the stain especially when it is located on the face.

Signs and Symptoms of Port Wine Stains

A port wine stain is relatively uniform in its characteristics though it changes in shape and location from person-to-person. Signs to look for include:

  • A pink, reddish or purplish splotch across a large area of the skin
  • A stain that grows in size as a child grows

In adults, a port wine stain can begin to take on a bumpy, “cobblestone” appearance.

What Causes Port Wine Stains?

As vascular birthmarks, port wine stains are related to the blood vessels in the body. A gene mutation in the person with a port wine stain prevents blood vessels from turning themselves “off” during their development, causing the skin to appear wine colored. There is no known cause for this genetic mutation. Port wine stains are also not the result of any behaviors on the part of a mother during pregnancy. In about 3% of cases, the same mutation that causes a port wine stain can cause Sturge-Weber disorder, a neurological condition.

How a Port Wine Stain is Treated

Laser treatment performed with a pulsed dye laser is currently the most prevalent treatment for port wine stains. This laser treatment can fade the birthmark but may also help reduce the chances that “cobblestones” can appear as the person ages. Treatment with lasers typically takes several sessions. The first session is often used to test a patch of skin to determine how the patient will react to the treatment.

Suggested Treatment Options

All cases of port wine stain are not the same, therefore we recommend seeing a specialist to help determine which treatment option is the best for you.


Microderm, also known as microdermabrasion, uses tiny crystals that are sprayed onto the skin to gently remove the outer layer of the epidermis. Learn More

Chemical Peels

A chemical peel works to hasten this process, revealing newer and healthier cells below the skin’s surface. Learn More


PDL, or pulse dye laser, is a laser treatment used in dermatology to treat blood vessels in the skin. Learn More

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