In news– Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev, who died recently, had a deep red blemish(port wine stain) on his almost bald forehead.
What is port wine stain?
- A port-wine stain (nevus flammeus) is a discoloration of the human skin caused by a vascular anomaly (a capillary malformation in the skin).
- They are so named for their coloration, which is similar in color to port wine, a fortified red wine from Portugal.
- It occurs most often on the face but can appear anywhere on the body, particularly on the neck, upper trunk, arms and legs.
- What Gorbachev had was a birthmark that is called a ‘port wine stain’, a name that derives from the way it looks.
- It was easy to imagine the mark as being a bit of deep red or purple liquid spilt on the former leader’s head.
- People who have the mark are usually born with it, most often on the face or arms. On more than six out of 10 occasions, port wine stains appear on the head or neck.
- The stain is for life, even though it may sometimes become thicker, darken, or develop a bumpy or ridged texture as the person grows older.
- On other occasions, the stain might fade or become lighter with age and time.
- Port wine stains are not the same as a similar birthmark that is known as ‘strawberry hemangiomas’.
- This is a non-cancerous tumour that is formed under the skin due to the clumping of blood vessels, and appears as a somewhat raised, dark red patch. This birthmark usually fades away by the time the child is about 10 years old.
- A port wine stain is caused by an abnormal development of blood vessels, sometimes called a capillary malformation, due to a mutation early in the pregnancy when the baby is developing in the womb.
- The reason for the mutation is not clear — it is not inherited, nor is it the result of something that has happened during the pregnancy.
- The condition is not very common, occurring in about 1 in every 350 children, and more in girls than in boys, research shows.
- It is usually not an indicator of any other abnormalities, even though in rare cases port wine stains on the face have been seen to be accompanied by a serious vascular condition known as Sturge-Weber syndrome that can cause mental retardation, glaucoma leading to blindness, seizures, or a stroke.
- In recent years, it has become possible to use laser techniques to address port wine stains, even though the results are not always perfect.