Amy Tiu is a mother of two, each daughter perfect in her eyes. And like most moms, Tiu has studied everything from tiny toes to button nose.
“You’re looking to see their whole body and see if they have marks anywhere,” says Tiu.
More than 80 percent of babies have some kind of birthmark, including Ella.
“She has a little mark on her tummy, a red mark, and we were just told it would go away as she gets older,” says Tiu.
“It’s kind of a bad name to call them a birthmark, because quite lot of them aren’t there at birth. They show up short a while after, once the skin tone and circulation evens out,” says Dr. Eric Jones, pediatrician on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Most marks fall into two categories: vascular and pigmented. Vascular varieties are caused by blood vessels. Pigmented birthmarks result from abnormal skin pigment. They are better known by catchy names, based on where they appear or how they look.
“Mongolian spot is a darker spot on a darker complexion. But we can see them on anybody. They are collections of purplish pigment- they almost look like an indistinct bruise on kids. We see them sometimes on back, buttock, the curve of the shoulder,” says Dr. Jones.
These pigment marks fade or disappear over time. Light brown or tan cafe au lait spots are also pigment variations that become less noticeable. Vascular marks are much more distinct.
“There’s one that’s called port wine stain, it's a very dark reddish/ purple mark. Usually on the face, those don’t tend to fade. The other ones people see a lot are the strawberry marks, the raspberry marks, they’re called hemangiomas,” says Dr. Jones.
Bright red bulges on the face, strawberries grow rapidly before shrinking and don’t need treatment unless one hampers eating, breathing or vision. Port wine stains may be treated with lasers if they cause embarrassment. For the most part, birthmarks offer a spot of individuality.
“If it’s not bothering you, if it’s something that makes you distinctive, it’s not worth messing with,” says Dr. Jones.