Mongolian Spots in Babies: Causes and Treatment

Many parents and doctors worry about Mongolian spots in babies. However, they hardly ever relate to other serious medical issues. Today, we'll tell you everything about this condition.
Mongolian Spots in Babies: Causes and Treatment

Last update: 28 July, 2021

Mongolian spots in babies are also known as congenital melanocytosis, which is actually the correct term. It’s usually only one, big, dark spot, which is often found in the gluteal region. Fortunately, it’s a benign condition and it disappears in time.

In this article, we’ll talk about its main characteristics and we’ll mention certain diseases that can appear at the same time. If you think this is an interesting topic, continue reading.

What are the characteristics of Mongolian spots?

Congenital melanocytosis.

These lesions usually attract parents’ attention.

The first time this lesion appears, parents may confuse it with a hematoma, which develops when small blood vessels under the skin tear or rupture, due to an injury. This is because Mongolian spots are purple or brown spots that can reach more than five centimeters in size.

Furthermore, these spots are plain, have an irregular shape (especially in the case of children of color), they don’t change in temperature, and they don’t cause pain.

They can appear from birth or during the first weeks of life. Therefore, we can say that this condition affects newborn babies during their first month of life. Even though they’re usually located in the gluteal region, they may appear in the limbs or other areas of the body.

Find out more: Melanoma in Children and Adolescents 

Why do these spots appear?

It’s easier to understand the origin of these spots when we analyze its medical term: congenital melanocytosis. Do you know what melanocytes are? They’re special skin cells that contain melanin, which is the main pigment in charge of the different skin colors.

In fact, when these cells are destroyed by an autoimmune reaction, people suffer from vitiligo. In this case, people have different-sized spots, that are pale in color, which is caused by the loss of these cells.

Melanocytes are found in the epidermis, which is the most superficial layer of skin. During embryonic development, some of these cells are located in a deeper layer: the dermis. When these cells aren’t created on time, this condition may develop. This is why it’s also called congenital.

Does this relate to other diseases?

Yes, it does. Even though these lesions don’t have a pathological connotation, sometimes, pediatricians take tests to find out if it relates to other conditions. Some of these may be:

  • Hurler syndrome: also known as mucopolysaccharidosis type 1, it’s a congenital disease from the metabolism. In this case, some molecules stop functioning, which causes an accumulation of certain substances in different tissues. As a result, this causes problems in growth and psychomotor development.
  • Sturge-Weber syndrome: when this occurs, a hemangioma (a tumor that affects blood vessels) appears, and people may suffer from convulsions and metabolic disorders.

These are considered rare diseases. Therefore, it might be difficult for doctors to diagnose them unless patients have more symptoms.

Can Mongolian spots be confused with other conditions?

Yes, they can. In fact, there are many diseases within dermal melanocytosis, which share characteristics regarding the way they appear. This would be the case of blue nevus and nevus of Ito.

Neurofibromatosis is another disorder that can be confused with Mongolian spots. This is because its main symptoms are the appearance of café-au-lait spots in different parts of the body. However, this disorder may cause neurological complications in time.

Another important characteristic of Mongolian spots is that, due to their similarity with bruises, they may seem to be symptoms of child abuse. Therefore, it may lead to different conflicts. Notwithstanding, since these spots take a very long time to disappear, doctors usually diagnose them correctly.

Is there a treatment?

Baby with pediatrician.

It’s very important to visit the doctor.

Mongolian spots don’t require specific treatment, because, after a few years, they spontaneously disappear. Some specialists may recommend avoiding sun exposure. Moreover, laser treatment can be quite useful if the spots don’t disappear after adolescence.

A common and noteworthy lesion

Even though it’s a benign condition, you should visit the pediatrician or dermatologist, as soon as you notice these spots, especially if your baby has other symptoms. Remember not to use natural medicine to treat this condition, because it may make the situation worse.

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  • Dorado Criado M, Fabra Garrido C, Rueda Carnero JM, Molina Gutiérrez MA. Mancha mongólica atípica: un reto diagnóstico. Rev Pediatr Aten Primaria. 2018;20:245-7.