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Red Birthmarks

Red Birthmarks

Red Birthmarks

Red birthmarks, also known as vascular birthmarks, are markings on the skin that result from the formation of blood vessels close to the skin’s surface. Vascular birthmarks are one of the two categories of birthmarks, including pigmented birthmarks. While red birthmarks are related to blood vessels, pigmented birthmarks are skin areas where the color of the birthmark is different from the rest of the skin. Red birthmarks typically appear at birth. There is currently no way to prevent red birthmarks from developing, either. 

Our board-certified dermatologists in Gainesville, FL, offer innovative therapies and treatments for various skin conditions, including red birthmarks, in our state-of-the-art facility. Contact Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery to schedule an appointment and learn about our available treatments.

What Are Birthmarks?

Birthmarks are colored marks or discolorations present at the time of birth or develop soon after birth. They are caused by an overgrowth or clustering of pigment cells or blood vessels in specific skin areas. There are two main birthmarks: pigmented birthmarks and vascular birthmarks. While birthmarks are generally harmless, some may be associated with underlying medical conditions, so it is important to have any unusual or changing birthmarks evaluated by your Gainesville dermatology provider.

What Are Red Birthmarks?

A red birthmark is a vascular birthmark that appears on the skin as red or pink patches or raised bumps on the skin. They are caused by an overgrowth of blood vessels in a particular area of the skin. There are several common vascular birthmark types: hemangiomas, port-wine stains, and salmon patches.


A hemangioma is a common type of vascular birthmark. Hemangiomas are typically painless and harmless, and their cause is unknown. Coloring on the skin from hemangiomas comes from the extensive development of blood vessels at the site beneath the skin. There are two main types of hemangiomas: strawberry hemangiomas and cavernous hemangiomas.

Strawberry Hemangiomas

A strawberry hemangioma also referred to as a strawberry mark, nevus vascularis, capillary hemangioma, hemangioma simplex, or strawberry nevus, is a type of hemangioma that can appear anywhere on the body, though they are most common on the face, scalp, chest, or back. Strawberry marks consist of tiny, closely packed blood vessels. Strawberry hemangiomas may be seen on the skin at birth and may develop after several weeks. 

Over time, they go through strawberry hemangioma stages relatively quickly, remaining fixed in size before subsiding. In most cases, strawberry hemangiomas disappear by the age of 9 or 10. If the strawberry hemangioma disappears, some slight discoloration or puckering of the skin may remain in its place. A strawberry hemangioma can be superficial, deep, or combined.

  • Superficial hemangiomas. This type of hemangioma may appear as a flat or raised red birthmark, usually bright red.
  • Deep hemangiomas. Deep or cavernous hemangiomas develop in deeper tissue, often appearing as blue or purple. 
  • Combined hemangiomas. These hemangiomas are a mixture of superficial and deep hemangiomas. 

Cavernous Hemangiomas

A cavernous hemangioma also called a deep hemangioma, is similar to a strawberry hemangioma, but is more deeply situated in the skin. Cavernous hemangiomas may appear as red-blue-colored, spongy masses of blood-filled tissue. After they appear, cavernous hemangiomas may disappear on their own, usually in the early years of life when children approach school age.

Port-Wine Stains

A port-wine stain is a flat red birthmark of dilated blood capillaries. Port-wine stains are permanent birthmarks present from birth. Sometimes called a red wine birthmark, a port-wine stain is named for its appearance as a maroon-wine color splashed on the skin. This type of birthmark typically appears on the face, though it can also affect other areas of the body and may vary in size. These flat, purple, or red marks are often permanent unless treated and may darken over time, which may cause emotional distress.

Salmon Patches

Commonly referred to as stork bites, macular stains, or angel kisses, salmon patches may appear on up to half of all newborn babies. These faint, red-colored marks on the skin are among the most common type of vascular birthmarks. Macular stains typically appear on the forehead, eyelids, back of the neck, nose, upper lip, or back of the head. They are caused by a concentration of immature blood vessels and may be the most visible when the baby cries. The majority of salmon patches fade and disappear completely over time.

What Causes Red Birthmarks?

Red or vascular birthmarks comprise close clusters of blood vessels near the skin’s surface. The cause of red birthmarks is unknown. In most cases, red birthmarks are usually painless and harmless and may not require treatment. However, if a vascular birthmark causes emotional distress or produces other negative side effects, patients may seek red birthmark removal from a board-certified dermatologist, such as those with Gainesville Dermatology Skin Surgery. Contact us today to discuss your options.

Symptoms Of Red Birthmarks

Symptoms of red birthmarks include but are not limited to, the following. Red birthmarks are generally harmless and do not pose a health threat. Some hemangiomas, such as strawberry hemangiomas, can leave a white or gray scar as they fade, making the area noticeably different from the surrounding skin.

  • Skin markings that develop before birth or after birth
  • Red skin rashes or lesions on the skin
  • Skin markings that look like blood vessels
  • Possible bleeding of the birthmark
  • Skin that might break open

In severe cases, large hemangiomas can be life-threatening, causing problems and deformities of the skin. Depending on the location of a hemangioma, a large hemangioma can also complicate the functioning of organs. It’s important to consult your dermatology specialist about any changes to your skin and any present moles regularly. Your doctor will evaluate the size of your hemangioma and may perform tests to determine whether or not it is harmful.

How Are Red Birthmarks Diagnosed?

In most cases, your dermatologist can diagnose your birthmark during a physical examination. In some cases, your provider may recommend testing to ensure the birthmark that does not penetrate deeper into other tissues. If your doctor suspects the birthmark is very deep or close to a major organ, the mark may require removal, typically requiring care at a specialty medical center. Your provider may perform one or more of the following tests to determine the hemangioma’s depth.

  • Skin biopsy (tissue removal)
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Ultrasound

Do Red Birthmarks Require Treatment?

In most cases, no treatment is needed for the birthmarks themselves. If a birthmark does require treatment, the treatment varies based on the type of birthmark and its size. Many capillary birthmarks like salmon patches and strawberry hemangiomas are temporary, and as a result, they require no treatment. For permanent birthmarks, using concealing cosmetics may be helpful. If a birthmark is very large, penetrates deep into the tissues, or affects vital organs, it will likely require removal. To determine whether a red birthmark requires removal, please contact our dermatology office today to schedule a consultation.

What Is The Treatment For Red Birthmarks?

While many birthmarks do not pose a health risk, permanent birthmarks may cause emotional distress or reduce self-confidence, particularly if the birthmark is large and/or in an easily-seen location of the face or body. Port-wine stains on the face, for example, may be treated at a young age with a yellow pulsed-dye laser. Treatment of birthmarks may help prevent or reduce psychosocial issues that can result in individuals with enduring red birthmarks. Permanent red birthmarks can be treated using several approaches, such as cryotherapy (freezing), laser treatments, and dermatology surgery

In some cases, birthmarks are not treated until a child reaches school age. However, birthmarks may be treated earlier if they result in negative symptoms or compromise vital organs or functions, such as vision or breathing. For more information about available treatments for permanent red birthmarks, contact Gainesville Dermatology Skin Surgery.

Can Red Birthmarks Be Prevented?

No. Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent red birthmarks. Most red birthmarks are harmless and fade over time. However, in rare cases, they can be harmful. Talk with your dermatologist to ensure that any marks are properly observed, diagnosed, and treated, if necessary. Schedule a consultation with our dermatologists today!