(Capillary Malformation or Nevus Flameus)
Portwine stains, (nevus flameus) are birthmarks
composed of enlarged small blood vessels in
the skin. These lesions are present at birth and
present throughout life. They most often grow
in size as the child grows. Portwine stains do
not grow at a fast rate or go away.
It is not known what causes portwine stains.
They occur in 1 in 200 newborns. For most
children, the portwine stain is not linked to any
other problems. Sometimes portwine stains of
the face can be linked to eye problems and
nervous system problems (Sturge-Weber
syndrome). In the same way, portwine stains
of the arms and legs can be related to tissue
overgrowth of the arm or leg underlying the
stain (Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome).
Most children with portwine stains have a
problem that is only skin deep. A treatment
for the portwine stain has been developed
using laser treatment, especially the pulsed dye
laser. Most portwine stains will darken and
thicken slowly with time. The laser treatments
can be used to prevent these changes. It also
greatly improves the appearance of the portwine
Laser therapy of the skin is used every 4-8 weeks
for an average of 4 to 8 treatment sessions. Most
children show much improvement in the stain
after laser treatment. Stains in the center of the
face and on the arms and legs do not resolve as
well as other stains. It is rare for laser treatment
to result in complete removal of a portwine stain.
The risk of scarring with the pulsed dye laser is
less than 1 in 100. When stains are widespread
or close to eyes, anesthesia may be needed for
pain or keep the patient still during the laser
therapy. Smaller stains can be treated with the
use of a cream called EMLA® which numbs the
Further information about portwine stains can be obtained from the National Congenital Portwine
Stain Foundation, 125 E. 63rd St., New York, NY 10021. The phone number is (516) 867-5137 or
FAX: (516) 869-1278.
UW Dermatology Department
1 S. Park St 7th Floor
Madison, WI 53715
Clinic: 608 287-2450
American Family Children’s Hospital
Pediatric Dermatology Specialty Clinic
1675 Highland Ave.
Madison, WI 53792
Clinic: 608 263-6420
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #7157.
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medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health
needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using this information. If
you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority.
All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6475.