Birthmarks, including angiomas and vascular malformations, are benign (noncancerous) skin growths composed of rapidly growing or poorly formed blood vessels or lymph vessels. Found at birth (congenital) or developing later in life (acquired) anywhere on the body, they range from faint spots to dark swellings covering wide areas.
Skin angiomas, also called vascular (pertaining to vessel) nevi (marks), are composed of blood vessels (hemangiomas) or lymph vessels (lymphangiomas), that lie beneath the skin's surface. Hemangiomas, composed of clusters of cells that line the capillaries, the body's smallest blood vessels, are found on the face and neck (60%), trunk (25%), or the arms and legs (15%). Congenital hemangiomas, 90% of which appear at birth or within the first month of life, grow quickly, and disappear over time. They are found in 1-10% of full-term infants, and 25% of premature infants. About 65% are capillary hemangiomas (strawberry marks), 15% are cavernous (deep) hemangiomas, and the rest are mixtures. Hemangiomas are three times more common in girls. Usually, only one hemangioma is found, in 20% two are found, while fewer than 5% have three or more. Lymphangiomas are skin bumps caused by enlarged lymph vessels anywhere on the body.
Vascular malformations are poorly formed blood or lymph vessels that appear at birth or later in life. One type, the salmon patch (nevus simplex), a pink mark composed of dilated capillaries, is found on the back of the neck (also called a stork bite) in 40% of newborns, and on the forehead and eyelids (also called an angel's kiss) in 20%. Stork bites are found in 70% of white and 60% of black newborns.
Found in fewer than 1% of newborns, port-wine stains (nevus flammeus), are vascular malformations composed of dilated capillaries in the upper and lower layers of the skin of the face, neck, arms, and legs. Often permanent, these flat pink to red marks develop into dark purple bumpy areas in later life; 85% appear on only one side of the body.
Acquired hemangiomas include spider angiomas (nevus araneus), commonly known as spider veins, and cherry angiomas (senile angiomas or Campbell de Morgan spots). Found around the eyes, cheekbones, arms, and legs, spider angiomas are red marks formed from dilated blood vessels. They occur during pregnancy in 70% of white women and 10% of black women, in alcoholics and liver disease patients, and in 50% of children. Cherry angiomas, dilated capillaries found mainly on the trunk, appear in the 30s, and multiply with aging.
Mercedes McLaughlin, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,