Overview of Port-wine Stains

Port-wine stains (nevus flammeus) are malformations of tiny blood vessels that connect the veins to the arteries (capillaries) located in the upper levels of the skin. These irregularly shaped patches range in color from light pink to red to dark red-violet and may darken with age. Port-wine stains, usually located on the neck, face, and scalp, occur in about 0.5 percent of newborns.

More than one-third of infants are born with a pink patch at the nape of the neck or on the eyelids (called an "angel's kiss," "salmon patch," or "stork bite"). These are minor blood vessel dilations and are not true port-wine stains. Those located on the eyelids and forehead fade slowly and eventually disappear. Those at the base of the neck are often permanent.

Cause of Port-wine Stains

The lesions are congenital, but the cause is unknown.

Signs & Symptoms of Port-wine Stains

Port-wine stains are present at birth and vary in size and shape. They first appear pale pink in color and darken with time. The texture can change gradually from smooth to thickened and pebbled.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Aug 2001

Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015