Coffee with milk stains on the skin

Many parents, especially new ones, are very attentive to any changes in their baby's skin, as these may be indicative of an underlying problem. One of the most common alterations is coffee with milk stains, so we will tell you everything you need to know about them.

As the name implies, these are spots that appear on the skin with a light brown color and a variable size and number. They can be a birthmark or become evident throughout childhood. According to data from the Spanish Pediatric Association, they are found in 10% of the population.

Coffee with milk stains are usually flat, have irregular edges, and become more noticeable around 2 years of age. It is important to note that its size increases as the child grows, without this being indicative of any pathology.

Why do these spots occur?

The color of the skin is given by a pigment called melanin, which is responsible for protecting from the incidence of ultraviolet rays. This substance is produced by a cell called melanocyte, which keeps the pigment inside in the form of deposits (melanosomes).

In the specific case of café au lait spots, there is an excessive amount of melanosomes inside the melanocytes of a specific area. This causes a darker pigmentation to appear in the area.

On the other hand, certain diseases are capable of increasing the number of melanocytes in the skin, which is why these spots can appear in various parts of the body. In addition, scientific studies have shown a direct relationship between these brands and the following pathologies:

  • McCune-Albright syndrome.
  • Neurofibromatosis 1 and 2.
  • Ring chromosome syndromes.
  • Watson's syndrome.

A café au lait stain shouldn't always be a cause for concern, as they are almost always benign.

Symptoms of café au lait spots

At this point, it is important to note that coffee with milk stains on children's skin are not the product of an allergic reaction, so they are not associated with itching or pain. In addition, it should also be noted that these pigmentations will not cause cancer.

The spots themselves may not present any symptoms, however, when they are the product of an underlying pathology, children will develop symptoms related to it. In the case of neurofibromatosis, for example, watch out for visual and neurological symptoms, as well as skin tumors.

On the other hand, when the pigmentary alteration is the product of McCune-Albright syndrome, we can find a large brown spot. In addition, these small patients usually present various endocrine problems and precocious puberty.

The rest of the diseases mentioned above have an extremely low incidence, so there is not enough evidence to establish a pattern of presentation.

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When should I be concerned?

In most cases, café-au-lait spots are usually benign and do not indicate the presence of any disease. In fact, studies have shown that only 25% of them are associated with a pathology.

In this sense, it is important to see a specialist when 6 or more spots with a diameter greater than 5 millimeters are observed in children and greater than 15 millimeters in adolescents. This could be indicative of neurofibromatosis.

However, It is always advisable to tell your pediatrician when you notice any change in skin pigmentation. In this way, the specialist will be able to evaluate the injury and indicate tests to confirm the presence of any disease, if necessary.

Treatment of café au lait spots

This pigmentary alteration will not need any special treatment or care. It will remain with the patient for the rest of his life. For this reason, various ways have been sought to make them less visible, but no great results have been obtained.

Many dermatologists have tried to remove these spots using a Q-switched laser treatment, however, its effectiveness is not assured. In fact, it has only been possible to lighten the spots in 50% of the cases, so one of the best options is to hide them with the use of cosmetics.

When coffee with milk stains on the skin are the product of any pathology, the underlying disease should be treated. It is of the utmost importance to maintain constant medical control and to follow the prescribed treatment thoroughly.

Less than 25% of café au lait spots are associated with underlying pathologies.

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What to do in the presence of these spots?

As you can see, in most cases café au lait spots are a benign birthmark, that is, they will not represent any danger to the health of those who possess them. In addition, the child must get used to their presence.

However, you should always be attentive to the changes that these spots may present and to the appearance of new lesions. This is because they can indicate the presence of serious diseases that represent a danger to life if they are not treated in time.