Port-wine Stain - Diagnosis

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.

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Dr Oliver Starr
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
4517 (v41)
Last Checked:
15 May 2017
Next Review:
29 June 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.