3 Things to Know About Laser Therapy for Port Wine Stains

Port-wine stains are a type of birthmark caused by swollen blood vessels. The blood vessels give the skin a purplish, reddish, or pink appearance. Though port-wine stains aren't problematic in most cases, they may cause the patient to feel self-conscious about their appearance. 

The most effective option for removing port-wine stains is laser therapy. With multiple sessions, it's possible to significantly reduce the color and size of a port-wine stain; some stains even disappear completely. During the laser session, the laser breaks up the blood vessels that give the stain its color. Here's what you need to know about using laser therapy to treat port-wine stains.

1. Laser Therapy Can Improve the Color and Texture of a Port Wine Stain

When a baby or young child has a port-wine stain, the birthmark often appears relatively smooth. However, as the child gets older, it's common for the port-wine stain to become thicker and have a more textured appearance.

Laser therapy is capable of treating both the color and texture associated with this birthmark. The same blood vessels that give the stain its color yield its textured appearance. Breaking them up improves both the color, thickness, and smoothness of the stain.

2. There's Little Risk Associated with Laser Therapy

One reason that laser therapy is the leading treatment option for port-wine stains is that it breaks up the blood vessels underneath the skin without destroying the body's healthy skin. Though it's common for patients to experience redness, burning, or swelling after their laser sessions, these side effects aren't permanent. After a session, you will need to avoid activities that might damage the skin or interrupt the healing process, like vigorous physical activities and swimming. 

For most individuals, local anesthesia is sufficient for laser therapy. However, if the treatments are being done on a young child or infant incapable of sitting still, general anesthesia may be used instead. Even when general anesthesia is used, laser therapy is an outpatient procedure.

3. Certain Birthmarks Respond Better to Laser Therapy

The location and color of the port-wine stain influence its response to laser therapy. Stains that are located on the face usually have a better response to laser treatments than those on the trunk, arms, or legs.

Pink or red stains are usually easier to remove them those with purple hues. If you're concerned about the ability of laser therapy to treat a port-wine stain, it's possible to perform a test session on a small area of the birthmark to see how it responds.