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Treating Birthmarks

One in 10 children are born each year with a vascular birthmark, and 40,000 of those cases require the opinion of a specialist.

These particular birthmarks, which range from pale pink to dark purple in color, are referred to as "port wine stains" and often leave parents confused and misinformed because, currently, there is no single medical specialty dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of vascular birthmarks.

In an effort to raise awareness about dealing with a condition that is not often talked about, as well as the latest in treatment options, co-anchor Hannah Storm presents a special story on The Early Show.

Nine-year-old Lindsey Brown of Hartford, Conn., began laser surgery treatments when she was just nine months old for the removal of the large port wine stain on the right side of her face. Storm follows Brown and her family as she undergoes her most recent laser treatment.

When asked why she is choosing to share her experience, the fourth-grader tells Storm, "So people can think before they talk. It doesn't matter what you look like on the outside, it just matters what your character is."
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As is the case with many people who have visible markings that are difficult to physically hide, dealing with the emotional and psychological implications are just as challenging. Many children and their parents deal with hurtful comments made by uneducated and insensitive people.

Storm, who has had a highly visible birthmark under her left eye since birth, says, "The worst question is, 'Hey, who hit you?'"

Also included in the report is an interview with Storm and her mother, Hannah Storen, about how the birthmark and unsuccessful treatments affected her, both physically and psychologically, while growing up.

Treatment for the removal of a port wine stain has drastically improved since Storm was a child. On Thursday's Early Show, Dr. Milton Waner of Arkansas Children's Hospital, a leading surgeon in the treatment of birthmarks, sits down with Storm to discuss the latest in treatment options. Click here to read more. If you would like to get in touch with Dr. Waner please send an email to

Dr. Roy Geronemus of New York City says, "It is important for parents to realize that there are treatment options available for their children that can reduce the visibility of most birthmarks. And it's never too early to consult a dermatologic surgeon about removing birthmarks. We treat children as young as newborns."

He notes some birthmarks may seem harmless but can develop into severe deformities later in life. While insurance coverage varies widely, patients and parents are advised to consult with their insurance carrier to determine if coverage is available. To find out more, visit

Pro golfer Casey Martin has a vascular birthmark like Storm's, but his is on his leg. His is so problematic that he has to petition the PGA to use a golf cart. These birthmarks that are deep into the tissue can cause nerve pain and increased pressure problems.

For more information on laser surgery and to locate qualified laser specialists in your area, you may contact The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery by visiting

You may also contact the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery by calling the consumer hotline at 1-800-441-ASDS (2737), during weekday business hours or by logging on at

According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, vascular lesions (birthmarks) accounted for 41 percent of all laser/light procedures performed in 2003 (total laser/light procedures performed was 920,325).

People affected by a vascular birthmark can participate in the National Day of Awareness by registering at The Vascular Birthmarks Foundation launched this annual fundraising event to help educate the public about vascular birthmarks, and to raise the funds needed to continue their very valuable work.

Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) will read into the Congressional Record that May 15, 2004, is the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation "National Day of Awareness."

The Early Show extends special thanks to Linda Shannon, founder of the Vascular Birthmark Foundation and a leading layperson in the field of treating birthmarks, for her assistance with these reports.