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Red Birthmarks and Spots (Vascular lesions)

Vascular lesions that can be treated at Laserderm include:

  • Port Wine Stain birthmarks (PWS)
  • Hemangiomas
  • Mixed or venous Malformations
  • Venous Lakes (dilated vein commonly appearing on lip)

What causes vascular irregularity and what can be done for it?

Vascular lesions appear as red or purple colored spots on the skin due to a dilatation of blood vessels in the superficial and sometimes deep layers of the skin.  Laser therapy was established as an effective way to “close” up these abnormally dilated blood vessels since the 1980’s. Laser energy is absorbed by the hemoglobin in blood and is then converted to thermal energy.  This thermal effect on the blood vessel results in the vessel becoming “disabled”.  Once the blood vessel or vein is permanently injured the body will clear it away over several weeks. This results in fading or with repeated treatments, completely cleared blood vessels or redness. The Dermatologist may combine different laser therapies for some patients in order to achieve the optical treatment outcome.

Port Wine Stain (PWS) birthmarks

Sometimes referred to as “salmon patch” or “stork bite”, PWS is a pink or red flat birthmark present at birth and can appear anywhere on the face or body. PWS birthmarks appear in about 3/1000 births.  There can be other conditions associated with having a PWS birthmark if the dilated blood vessels have a deeply penetrating component, such as involvement of eye, brain or skeletal systems. When treated early in life, most PWS birthmarks are very responsive to laser therapy, and can fade considerably or clear completely.

Laserderm is still the only Independent Health Facility approved by the Ministry of Health to treat benign vascular lesions.  Port-wine stains on the head and neck, and birthmarks exceeding 10 cm diameter on the extremities are still insured in adults.  All PWS and hemangiomas in any location are still covered as an insured benefit for Ontario under 18 years of age.  Click here to learn more about Port-wine stains and vascular birthmarks.


Hemangiomas are rapidly growing vascular lesions, present at birth or appearing in early infancy. It may start looking like a small red dot, but they can quickly become very large, start bleeding or ulcerate (open wound). Early detection and proper diagnosis of hemangiomas in infants and children, in particular, is critical in avoiding facial deformity and further medical complications that can be associated with large or complicated hemangiomas.  The paediatric dermatologists at CHEO partner with Laserderm for a coordinated and urgent treatment plan for newborns with ulcerating hemangiomas. While most patients are referred to Laserderm by their family doctor or general dermatologist, parents are also welcome to seek a consultation by contacting the Laserderm office directly.

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