I have a port wine stain birthmark. How can I remove and treat it?
Article medically reviewed by Dr. Gavin Chan (MBBS, cosmetic physician, liposuctionist)
Templestowe Lower and Berwick Clinics
Dr. Gavin Chan has a background in intensive care, anaesthesia, and emergency medicine. Since 2004, Dr. Chan has provided cosmetic procedures, including anti-wrinkle injections, dermal fillers, liposuction, fat transfer, skin needling, and laser treatments. He is a doctor trainer for various dermal fillers and anti-wrinkle injections. Read More
Have you got a port wine stain birthmark on your face or body that is bothering you? While some can be covered up with makeup or clothing, if you’re unable to do so it may be time to consider treating them. They will not disappear by themselves or reduce in size over time. And as you get older the lesions can become raised and thickened. A Port wine stain birthmark can’t be completely removed, but they can be treated so their appearance fades.
When you decide to have your birthmark removed it’s important to visit a reputable medical clinic that has highly trained and experienced Cosmetic Doctors and Cosmetic Nurses performing this treatment. Led by Dr Gavin Chan, since 2005 our team of Cosmetic Doctors and Cosmetic Nurses have effectively treated thousands of people with port wine stains.
What are port wine stain birthmarks?
Port wine stains (also called capillary vascular malformations) are birthmarks that occur because of a congenital malformation of the capillaries and veins of the skin. They appear as a reddish/purple colour and have the appearance of wine stains. In some cases raised nodules can form within the affected area.
Port wine stains are usually present at birth and affect 0.3 to 0.5% of the population. People with the condition can experience significant psychological distress, particularly if the face is affected. Although the stains commonly appear on the face, they can occur on other parts of the body.
What causes port wine stains?
Port wine stains are caused by a disturbance in the behaviour of blood vessels. The blood fills the blood vessels, causing what looks like a stain under the skin. Because the nerve control of blood flow is deficient, the blood flow is always at maximum level.
The typical red appearance occurs because the capillaries within the port-wine stain remain wide open. This is called a vascular birthmark. It’s important to note that port-wine stains could not have been prevented, are nobody’s fault, and are not hereditary.
What is the best way to treat port wine stains?
The first step of treatment is to have a consultation with our highly trained and experienced medical practitioners to assess and confirm the diagnosis. This will exclude any underlying medical problems including Sturge-Webber syndrome. It is important to note that port wine stains can often lead to increased pressure in the eye, resulting in glaucoma.
The best way to treat them is with lasers, which are attracted to the blood present in the affected area. To lighten the stain, most patients require multiple laser treatments. Complete removal is often not possible. While laser treatment can be commenced in early childhood, we only treat the adult population.
The traditional laser to remove them uses a process called selective photothermolysis. With a wavelength of 595nm this laser is highly attracted to the haemoglobin (blood). Selective treatment of the stain occurs because the it preferentially takes up the heat energy from the laser.
In recent years, port wine stains have been successfully treated with the 532nm and 1064nm wavelengths of the Gemini laser. The primary laser wavelength used in the treatment is the 532nm wavelength which is highly attracted to the haemoglobin. The 1064nm wavelength is also attracted to the haemoglobin, but not to such a high degree. An advantage of using the Gemini laser is that the head has a cooled-tip to chill the top surface of the skin. This cooling effect reduces damage to the skin surface layer as the laser passes through it.
Dr Terri Labberton (MBBS, FRACGP, Cosmetic Doctor) treated a patient’s port wine stain located on the thigh with the Gemini laser. She explained “the laser is attracted to the redness in the blood vessels where the energy focuses into the blood vessels causing them to collapse. It can take several treatments to treat effectively.”
It is important to note that port wine stains can be resistant to laser treatment and usually require multiple sessions. Complete fading may not always be possible. For patients experiencing nodules in later life, the Erbium laser can be used to flatten the lesions. You can view before and after photos of our port wine stain laser treatment here
Are there any side effects with treatment?
After your treatment, the area that you had treated may feel hot for a few hours. Over the next few days this area will look like your skin has been sun burnt. Some patients initially experience a darkening of the stain, which may take up to 7 days to fade.
If your normal skin has been affected by the laser treatment, a blister or scab may develop. After laser treatment, swelling is normal but will subside after several days. The incidence of scarring after port wine laser treatment is very rare. It is important to note that darker skins can be more affected by laser treatment than light or fair skins.
The best skincare to use after your treatment
After your procedure, it’s important to use skincare that soothes and nourishes your skin. Dermaceutic Panthenol Ceutic soothes, nourishes and relieves skin dryness and irritation after your laser treatment. This hypoallergenic formula effectively combines 5% Panthenol and 1% Bisabolol with nourishing ingredients including Vitamin E, Shea butter and beeswax. Suitable for dry or hypersensitive skin, Dermaceutic Panthenol Ceutic can also be used on the lips and cuticles.
If you’re unsure about which products will suit your skin, our highly experienced and trained Skin Therapists can advise and tailor a skincare regime to suit. Book your skin consultation by calling us on 1300 863 824.
How to get the best port wine stain removal in Melbourne
It is important to note that the treatment of port wine stains will vary from person to person. During your initial consultation we will discuss with you what is a realistic and achievable outcome and what to expect from your treatment. Since 2005, led by Dr Gavin Chan our highly trained and experienced Cosmetic Doctors and Cosmetic Nurses have successfully treated thousands of patient. Call us on 1300 863 824 to book your consultation in or fill in the enquiry form below.