Minimizing Port Wine Stains

May 28, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
You have probably seen adults and children with port wine stains: red birthmarks on the face or body caused by dilated blood vessels. The only way to treat them is with lasers. But doctors say the key to success is starting treatment early in life. Doctor Jay Adlersberg shows us why.

Christopher Ferguson just turned 2 years old, and already he's been through a lot.

He has Port Wine Stains on his face and body and has had 18 laser treatments to minimize them. Although he's too young to notice the markings, his mom says others do and it's been tough.

"They come up to him, it's very distressing as a mother to see this for my baby," mom Diane Ferguson said.

But Christopher is well on his way to having a clearer complexion. He started treatments at 6 months old, and he will need more, but already the difference is remarkable.

"It's a dramatic improvement over the past 18 months...dramatic improvement I see," she said.

Port Wine Stains are dilated blood vessels on the skin. Most often, it's a cosmetic issue. However, if on the face, they can cause seizures and glaucoma.

Dr. David Goldberg says the only treatment is with lasers, and the younger, the better.

"The smaller the blood vessel, the easier it is to treat them.....but not in children," says Dr. Goldberg of Hackensack University Medical Center.

Christopher is sedated during the procedures because he's so young. Although the laser leaves red marks and swelling, it's considered safe, even for infants.

Yet, there's a lack of awareness that tots can be helped with lasers, and the treatment will make an big difference later on in life.

Insurance does cover the laser procedure. Some children need just a couple of treatments. Others, like Christopher, will need upwards of 25.

For more information, contact the Hackensack University Medical Center's Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery or call 201-996-5922.