Hives (Urticaria)

Birthmarks are abnormal skin discolorations in spots that are either present at birth or appear shortly thereafter. They can be flat or slightly raised from the skin. They can be any number of colors, including red, brown, black, tan, pink, white or purple. Birthmarks are generally harmless. There are two major categories of birthmarks: pigmented birthmarks and red birthmarks.

Pigmented Birthmarks can grow anywhere on the skin and at any time. They are usually black, brown or skin-colored and appear singly or in groups. They can be moles (congenital nevi) that are present at birth, Mongolian spots, which look like bluish bruises and appear more frequently on people with dark skin, or café-au-lait spots that are flat, light brown or tan and roughly form an oval shape.

Red Birthmarks (also known as macular stains) develop before or shortly after birth and are related to the vascular (blood vessel) system. There are a number of different types:

  • Angel kisses, which usually appear on the forehead and eyelids.
  • Stork bites, which appear on the back of the neck, between the eyebrows on the forehead, or on eyelids of newborns. They may fade away as the child grows, but often persist into adulthood.
  • Port-wine stains, which are flat deep-red or purple birthmarks made up of dilated blood capillaries (small blood vessels). They often appear on the face and are permanent.
  • Strawberry hemangiomas, composed of small, closely packed blood vessels that grow rapidly and can appear anywhere on the body. They usually disappear by age nine.
  • Cavernous hemangiomas are similar to strawberry hemangiomas but go more deeply into the layers of the skin. These can often be characterized by a bluish-purple color. They also tend to disappear naturally around school age.

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Hives are characterized as itchy red, raised welts (also known as wheals) on the skin's surface that can spread or join together and form larger areas of raised lesions. They are generally triggered by exposure to an allergen or chemical irritant. They tend to appear suddenly and often disappear equally as suddenly.

Hives are usually an allergic reaction to food, medicine or animals. They can also be triggered by sun exposure, stress, excessive perspiration or other, more serious diseases, such as lupus. Anyone can get hives. They are harmless and non-contagious. Hives may itch, burn or sting. They rarely need medical attention as they tend to disappear on their own. However, in persistent cases, your dermatologist may prescribe antihistamines or oral corticosteroids. The best way to prevent hives is to discontinue exposure to the allergic irritant.

Hives lasting more than six weeks are known as chronic urticaria or, if there is swelling below the surface of the skin, angioedema. There are no known causes of angioedema, but it can affect internal organs and therefore requires medical attention.