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PORT WINE STAIN FACTS.

Byline: Betty Kwong Daily News Staff Writer

Ever notice a small red fleck somewhere on your skin? Not a freckle or a scar, but a cherry mark?

``Most people have one or another hanging around,'' said Dr. Andrew Wexler, a plastic surgeon with the Kaiser Permanente Craniofacial Clinic. ``That's probably the lowest end of the scale of a vascular oddity.''

At the other end of the scale are port wine stains that can cover the entire face, head and neck.

Wexler shared his expertise on the condition that affects many.

What is a port wine stain?

A port wine stain is one of a group of relatively common vascular malformations. It involves the capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body. When there's an abnormal growth of many, many capillaries in an area, it causes a reddish or violet pigmentation - which explains its common name, ``port wine stain.''

What causes it?

It is not known what in the genetic code makes these capillaries grow in this way. But it does not seem to have a hereditary component; it's not passed from one generation to another.

Will the birthmark shrink or grow over time?

The size of the discolored area will grow proportionately with a child's growth. If the stain covers, say, 10 percent of the baby's face, in adulthood, the stain will still cover only 10 percent of the face. So, it gets bigger, but it covers the same area.

Is there a treatment for the condition?

A ``tunable dye laser'' treatment can erase the stain fairly successfully. It basically coagulates the blood vessels through the skin, blanching out the discoloration.

Cosmetics also can camouflage the stain.

Will new port wine stains show up later in life?

Areas affected by abnormal capillaries exist at birth; you won't grow any new abnormal capillaries. But those areas can become more prominent later on in life, particularly if they've been laser-treated or operatively removed. The surgery can change pressure in that vascular bed, which may shunt more blood into other abnormal capillary areas.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 14, 1998
Words:340
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