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Treatment for Port Wine Stain

What is port wine stain?

A port wine stain is a vascular birthmark on the skin that is usually pink or ruby red in color. The mark is so named, because it resembles port wine poured over the skin. Port wine stains are usually present at birth, but can also occur soon afterwards, or in early childhood. They can typically be seen on the face, but can appear anywhere on the body.


Port wine stains occur as a result of the abnormal collection of dilated blood vessels in the skin. However, medical researchers are not sure of the precise reason for this. They generally differ in size, but may change in appearance and darken as time passes. They often become darker when the blood flow through the vessels becomes slower, often causing the skin to take on a thick, lumpy appearance.

Best treatment for port wine stains

Several types of therapies have been used to treat port wine stains, but laser treatment; in particular the pulsed dye laser is considered the best. Laser treatment produces excellent results with few side effects. It also has low risk of scarring, and skin pigmentation problems.

The pulsed dye laseris a unique class of laser because it uses organic dye as the lasing medium. The laser emits a concentrated beam of light, and it selectively targets the blood vessels in the skin, and does not damage the surrounding tissue.

How does the laser treatment work?

The light from the laser is converted into heat, and is absorbed by the red pigment in the blood vessels. The energy heats the lining of the blood vessels, and the resulting effect is that they gradually close off.

Treatment takes about 15-20 minutes on average. It make take a series of 4-7 treatments to achieve the desired improvement, as darker port wine stains tend to respond more slowly to treatment. However, the dye laser has been used to successfully treat port wine stains in both children and adults.

Is it painful?

Patients will experience a stinging sensation, which feels a lot like when a rubber band is snapped against the skin. Most patients are able to tolerate the discomfort without the need for any type of anesthesia.

What should you expect?

After treatment, the port wine stain will appear a lot darker, and this can last anywhere from 7-10 days. The mark will start to lighten after about 4 weeks, and this will continue for the following 2-3 months.

Are there any possible complications

The pulsed dye laser is a very safe technology for treating port wine stains. There is minimal risk of scarring, or of any changes in skin texture. After treatment patients are advised to routinely apply sunscreen to prevent sun damage.

Patients should be aware that the pulsed dye laser may not remove the port wine stain completely, but it can significantly lighten its appearance.

At Nowak Aesthetics we also use the Nd: YAG laser to treat port wine stains. The 1064nm Nd: YAG laser is also an effective treatment for port wine stains. The energy from the long pulsedlaseris readily absorbed by the pigment in the blood vessels.

The Nd: YAG is often used in cases where the lesions don’t clear completely after initial treatment. This may occur because the shorter pulse laser is unable to penetrate down to the deeper components of the port wine stain. The ability to penetrate deep into the skin is what makes the Nd: YAGa better option for treating port wine stains that are located in areas that make them resistant to short wavelengthlasers.