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Dermal melanocytosis

Mongolian spots; Congenital dermal melanocytosis

Dermal melanocytosis is the name of a kind of birthmark that is flat, blue, or blue-gray. They appear at birth or in the first few weeks of life. Dermal melanocytosis was formerly called Mongolian blue spots.

Causes

Dermal melanocytosis is common among people of Asian, Native American, Hispanic, East Indian, and African descent.

The color of the birth mark is from a collection of melanocytes in the deeper layers of the skin. Melanocytes are cells that make the pigment (color) in the skin.

Symptoms

Dermal melanocytosis is not cancerous and are not associated with disease. The markings may cover a large area of the back.

The markings are usually:

  • Blue or blue-gray spots on the back, buttocks, base of spine, shoulders, or other body areas
  • Flat with irregular shape and unclear edges
  • Normal in skin texture
  • 2 to 8 centimeters wide or larger

Dermal melanocytosis is sometimes mistaken for bruises. This can raise a question about possible child abuse. It is important to recognize that dermal melanocytosis is a birthmark, not bruises.

Exams and Tests

No tests are needed. The health care provider can diagnose this condition by looking at the skin.

If the provider suspects an underlying disorder, further tests will be done.

Treatment

No treatment is needed when dermal melanocytosis is a normal birthmark. If treatment is needed, lasers may be used.

Spots may be a sign of an underlying disorder. If so, treatment for that problem will likely be recommended. Your provider can tell you more.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Spots that are normal birthmarks often fade in a few years. They are almost always gone by the teen years.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

All birthmarks should be examined by a provider during the routine newborn examination.

References

DiBiagio JR Lloyd MC, Dermatology. In: Kleinman K, Mcdaniel L, Molloy M, eds. Harriet Lane Handbook. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 8.

James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Melanocytic nevi and neoplasms. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 30.

McClean ME, Martin KL. Cutaneous nevi. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 670.

  • Mongolian blue spots - illustration

    Mongolian blue spots are flat bluish- to bluish-gray skin markings commonly appearing at birth or shortly thereafter. They appear commonly at the base of the spine, on the buttocks and back and also can appear on the shoulders. Mongolian spots are benign and are not associated with any conditions or illnesses.

    Mongolian blue spots

    illustration

  • Neonate - illustration

    A newly born infant is also called a neonate.

    Neonate

    illustration

  • Mongolian blue spots - illustration

    Mongolian blue spots are flat bluish- to bluish-gray skin markings commonly appearing at birth or shortly thereafter. They appear commonly at the base of the spine, on the buttocks and back and also can appear on the shoulders. Mongolian spots are benign and are not associated with any conditions or illnesses.

    Mongolian blue spots

    illustration

  • Neonate - illustration

    A newly born infant is also called a neonate.

    Neonate

    illustration


Review Date: 4/14/2021

Reviewed By: Elika Hoss, MD, Senior Associate Consultant, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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