Port wine stains are a type of birthmark that get their name because they resemble the color of spilled wine, especially as you grow older. As a baby, your port wine stain may have been pink and flat. However, as an adolescent or adult, it may have transformed from maroon to deep purple, thick, raised, and pebbly.
Unlike other birthmarks, port wine stains aren’t caused by clumps of melanin, the substance that gives your skin its pigment. Instead, they’re caused by swollen veins that push up and discolor the skin. Port wine stains are sometimes referred to by their clinical name, nevus flammeus.
Although they can appear anywhere on the body, port wine stains are most commonly found on the face. Large, dark, or raised port wine stains on your face may feel disfiguring and could lower your self-confidence.
Jeffrey Gosin, MD, is a vascular specialist who treats port wine stains at Shore Vascular and Vein Center in Somers Point, New Jersey. If you or your child has a port wine stain (PWS) you’d like to reduce or remove, here’s what you need to know.
Lasers fade port wine stains
Because PWS is caused by swollen blood vessels, shrinking the blood vessels can reduce the birthmark’s appearance. Dr. Gosin uses the state-of-the-art excel® V laser system, which directs green laser energy at the red hemoglobin in swollen veins.
The heat from the laser damages the inner walls of the swollen PWS veins, collapsing them; your body resorbs them, then builds new, healthier vessels. The stain may temporarily look darker due to the “bruising” effect of the laser, but this usually resolves within about two weeks.
Repeat treatments may be needed
Unless your PWS is very light, you could need a series of 3-5 treatments. Dr. Gosin may recommend treatments every 4-8 weeks until the swollen blood vessels have been destroyed.
In most cases, the improvement in your PWS is permanent. However, you may need a touch-up down the road to keep your skin looking its best. Nobody knows what causes PWS in the first place, and the aberrant PWS vessels sometimes regrow.
Start early, if possible
Lasers are safe for all ages, including babies and kids. The sooner you treat a port wine stain, the better the chances of resolving it permanently.
However, even as an adult you can benefit from laser therapy for PWS, including extremely dark or raised PWS. Although laser treatment may not be able to completely remove the stain, the color lightens. Laser therapy also improves the quality of skin, so that it’s not as thick, raised, and rough.
Lasers are virtually pain-free
During your PWS treatment, we numb your face so you don’t feel the zap of the laser. The excel also features a CoolView™ handpiece that provides sapphire-powered cooling to your skin. The sensation of laser treatment isn’t any more severe than being snapped with a rubber band.
We can also give you a sedative to keep you calm during the procedure. Afterward, you must avoid the sun and avoid scratching or irritating your face while you heal.
If you’re ready for a clearer face, free of disfiguring PWS, call 609-297-5992 today. You can also use the handy online contact form to request an appointment.