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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.

Related Treatments

Alexandrite Laser

The Alexandrite Laser is used to treat pigmentation issues, brown spots, birthmarks and other skin issues. Learn More

CO2 Laser Resurfacing

CO2 (carbon dioxide) lasers vaporize thin layers of skin with a high-energy beam of light. As the skin heals, collagen is produced which creates improved skin elasticity. Learn More

Cutera® Laser Genesis

Cutera Laser Genesis is a non-invasive treatment for treating acne and acne scarring using controlled heat. Learn More

Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is a dermatological procedure that uses lasers to smooth and refine the surface of the skin while also reinvigorating the layers of skin below. 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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