Congenital vascular malformation (CVM) is a term that describes a cluster of blood vessels that forms abnormally due to development problems in the early stages of fetal development. It is thought that only about one percent of the U.S. population is born with a vascular malformation or birthmark.
Vascular malformations form on or near the skin’s surface and can appear as anything from a simple birthmark or areas of deep purple discoloration to bleeding or painful sores.
What Causes Birthmarks and Other Vascular Malformations?
Birthmarks are not all the same. In fact, there are several potential causes for a birthmark to form, including two types caused by CVM. Birthmarks can be harmless, but many can develop problems as a child grows older or later in life as an adult. There are several types of birthmarks including:
Most birthmarks result from a CVM that forms as a cluster of small blood vessels that sit near the skin’s surface. They vary in size from small to large, are usually permanent and maintain the same size and appearance throughout a person’s lifetime.
Hemangiomas (non-cancerous vascular tumors) grow rapidly within months after first appearing, but most disappear completely by age six, leaving behind a patch of elastic-feeling skin. Sometimes, though, a hemangioma may develop an ulcer, a crater-like area of skin loss. This ulceration can be unsightly and may even impact how the affected area of your body functions.
Port-wine stains are capillary malformations that run through the deeper layers of the skin. At birth, they may appear pink or red, but with time change into a deep purple color. They can be disfiguring, and many people with port-wine stains seek treatment if it appears on the face, neck or other areas where skin is exposed. Port-wine stains can cause changes to skin texture, creating a “cobblestone effect,” and can be associated with overgrowth of underlying bone and soft tissue.
Lesions (wounds) include:
Venous malformations form bluish patches (lesions) on the skin and linings of the nose and mouth. These lesions can be painful, causing inflammation and swelling. This type of malformation, which is present at birth, usually becomes larger and new lesions may appear.
Deformity of the lymphatic channels, known as lymphatic malformations, can be found within the skin or soft tissue. This type of CMV is especially at risk for infection that includes swelling, warmth, redness, and pain.
When lesions form at the skin, they appear as a painful cluster of blisters that sometimes discharge watery fluid (vesicles). This is called a microcystic malformation. Macrocystic malformation lesions form deeper in the body’s soft tissue. They are often found in the neck or armpit as a hard lump with a bluish skin discoloration.
Arteriovenous Malformations. This rarest of CMV can also be life-threatening. These malformations are present at birth, but usually don’t have any symptoms other than appearing as pinkish-red blushes on the skin. Due to unusually increased blood flow from abnormal artery-vein connections, soft tissues, the surrounding skin, and underlying bone may die. This can cause pain and lead to episodes of bleeding that can be life-threatening. Expansion of these lesions can cause significant disfigurement and functional problems as well.
At your appointment, the doctor will conduct a physical examination, ask questions about your goals, concerns and symptoms, and may recommend treatment depending upon the CVM diagnosis, your skin type, family history, underlying cause and other variables.
We care both about your health and your quality of life. If you are unhappy with your appearance because of a birthmark, know that you are in good hands with the team at Riverchase Dermatology. We have great success in minimizing or eliminating problem birthmarks with laser therapy and other treatments so you can look and feel your best.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms described above, including wounds, sores, blisters or other unusual skin discoloration, please contact us immediately.