Port-wine Stain - Diagnosis

Authored by Dr Oliver Starr, 15 May 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Helen Huins, 15 May 2017

How would a doctor diagnose a port-wine stain?

There is no particular test for a port-wine stain.

  • The diagnosis is made on the appearance of a newborn's skin.
  • A biopsy is not normally necessary.
  • A port-wine stain should not be confused with a 'salmon patch' or 'stork mark' that almost half of babies have, on the back of their neck in the midline. This fades over about a year and is entirely harmless.

Are any further tests done?

Because very rarely something could be wrong with the baby's brain or eyes, if a baby has a port-wine stain they are usually checked by a specialist doctor. They will probably have a brain scan and a detailed eye check.

Do they mean something else is wrong with the baby?

About 1 in 100 babies born with a port-wine stain on the face have problems of the eye or brain. If 1 in 300 babies have a port-wine stain and 1 in 100 of these have something else wrong then you can see how rare these problems are: they only affect 1 in 30,000 babies.

  • Eye problems: may develop if the port-wine stain is on the eyelid area. If a child has a port-wine stain next to an eye then an eye specialist will normally check the child regularly until they are adult.
  • Brain abnormalities: are an uncommon association with port-wine stains of the face. This is due to extensive blood vessel abnormalities in the brain (the Sturge-Weber syndrome). Epilepsy and other problems may then develop.
  • Spine abnormalities and varicose veins: can be other associated problems.

The majority of children with port-wine stains do not have these complications.

Further reading and references

For the past month or so I keep getting tiny red bumps on my skin, mostly on my hands, stomach and legs. I'm fifteen and the only places I don't get them are on my head and the bottom of my feet....

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