What are Mongolian Spots?

What Are Mongolian Spots
Q:
What Are Mongolian Spots

My daughter was born with a birthmark on her buttocks. The doctor said it is called a “Mongolian spot”. Could you provide information on Mongolian spots, such as what causes them and how parents can deal with them? Thank you Dr. Greene.
A. Hafso – Alberta, Canada

A:

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Several years ago, I met a little girl who had been taken from her parents because authorities noticed that her body, especially her buttock, was covered with large, deep bruises. She and her parents were ripped from one another, for her own good. I can only imagine what they each felt. Child abuse charges were eventually dropped, when these “bruises” were correctly diagnosed as Mongolian spots.

These flat birthmarks can be deep brown, slate gray, or blue-black in color. They do sometimes look similar to bruises. The edges are often, but not always, indistinct. They are most common on the lower back and buttocks, but are often found on the legs, back, sides, and shoulders. They vary from the size of a pinhead to six inches or more across. A child may have one or several.

At least one Mongolian spot is present on over 90% of Native Americans and people of African descent, over 80% of Asians, over 70% of Hispanics, and just under 10% of fair-skinned infants (Clinical Pediatric Dermatology, 1993). Despite the name, Mongolian spots have no known anthropologic significance, except for being more common in darker-skinned infants.

Mongolian spots are nothing more than dense collections of melanocytes, the skin cells which contain melanin, the normal pigment of the skin. When the melanocytes are close to the surface, they look deep brown. The deeper they are in the skin, the more bluish they look. Either way, they are not related to bruises or any other medical condition. They do not predispose to skin cancer or any other problem.

Mongolian spots are present at birth, and most of them fade (at least somewhat) by age two. Most have completely disappeared by age five. If Mongolian spots remain at puberty, they are likely to be permanent. Fewer than five percent of children with Mongolian spots still have any by adulthood. Those who do tend to be the ones with multiple, widespread spots, or with spots in unusual locations.

If your daughter’s spot were in a very unusual location, I might suggest asking her physician to confirm the diagnosis. Since your daughter’s spot is on her buttocks, since these spots are entirely benign, and since most will disappear without trace, I would relax and wait. In the unlikely event that it is still present after puberty, there may (by then) be safe, painless, effective ways to remove them — if she should so choose.

July 30, 2008
Dr. Alan Greene

Article written by

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

 

Comments

  • AS48

    Just came across this article while researching Mongolian spots. My 2-month-old grandson was recently taken away from his parents for a week and a half when his pediatrician noticed what looked like bruises on his lower back during a routine well-baby checkup. Even the doctor – along with 3 other doctors who checked him out – said that it was possible this was a birthmark, and not a bruise. He was taken away anyway. Fortunately, he was able to stay with a nearby relative during the investigation. After all was said and done, Child Protective Services had to apologize for the mistake and return the baby to his parents, saying the bruise diagnosis was incorrect, and what he actually has are Mongolian Spots. I’ve advised my daughter-in-law to get a letter (with photos of the spots) from her pediatrician confirming this fact, and make copies of it to keep with her at all times – in her purse, diaper bag and on record with anyone who cares for the baby – such as daycare or school. This was a nightmarish situation that was completely avoidable, if only the doctor had realized what the spots were in the first place.

  • Sara

    I have a very large Mongolian spot on my face and I am 20 years old. It has never gone away, and maybe i’m paranoid, but it seems as if it has gotten bigger recently. It’s very embarrasing because people always think it’s a bruise, and it’s very noticeable right beneth my eyebrow and very large. Maybe there will be a cure one of these days. :-(

  • Eve Allen

    What if they don’t disappear with age? I was told by two professionals I had a mongolian spot, because of my Native American ancestry. Another said it was a Chocolate Latte birthmark, but the pictures and size of mine do not match. Mine is much bigger with darker spots in it. What am I to think?

    • Conserve Life

      I hope you find an answer, Eve! I’d suggest consulting a dermatologist.

  • Jonesy

    Can’t say “White” any more? Are we being eliminated as a race? Perhaps whiteness is the lack of a race? It’s like how BC– “Before Christ” is being replaced with BCE-before current era. It never ends does it? And its always anti-Caucasian. Always. And if you don’t do as the Left commands, they are going to make you regret it. You’re a whore, Greene.

    • http://DrGreene.com/ Cheryl Greene

      Thanks for your comment, however I believe you misunderstood. Dr. Greene was quoting directly for an academic journal “90% of Native Americans and people of African descent, over 80% of Asians, over 70% of Hispanics, and just under 10% of fair-skinned infants (Clinical Pediatric Dermatology, 1993).” If this case “fair-skinned infants” includes people from many different heritages.

  • Jonesy

    You mean like white Black people? White Cambodians? White Apaches? I think both Greene’s were born with Mongolian spots, indicating non-European heritage. If you are a Greene, and if perhaps the Greene’s can’t be White, then maybe there is no White? Look inside yourself, Bluebutt. It’s interesting how each race was carefully listed (And With Capital Letters!), until you got to the one race whose lack of color is the defining characteristic of that race, and then even in your reply it still wasn’t clear whether there is a White race or not. Is there a White race? I can’t help but sense the trajectory of your science bending to the gravity of the political Left. Maybe Bluebutt should be the name for not-quite scientists like it can be used for those people, like yourself, who are not quite wholly of European ancestry. On the other hand, you can think of the spot free race as being congenitally and terminally Racially Incorrect.

  • Tsogoo B

    There’s nothing wrong with Mongolian blue spot. Every one here had this spot when they were infants. If your baby has it then . . . well, you guys are maybe related to us.

  • jamba dembe

    You know what people! Be proud to be born with that Mongolian spot. if
    it is only on butt, it is Mongolian spot, not anywhere else on your
    body. It is said that Native Americans and Present day Mongolians had
    similar ancestors. Almost 98 percent of Mongolian people’s has this spot
    when they are born. and disappears at age between 1 to 5. Also
    Mongolia is located in heart of central Asia. why i’m saying this is that
    at least make some research about it first and where it was from.
    Furthermore, as Dr.Greene said above, it is not that hereditary or some kind of disease. it is with your gene. So instead of asking doctors ask historians about it.

  • JMoo241

    I am Asian and my husband is American. Our son was born with Mongolian spots on his butt. It’s not really a big deal to me. My husband was curious and I explained it to him. My step-daughter (11 year old) doesn’t know anything about her brother not until one day the social services pulled her out from her classroom and talked to her about “us” beating or abusing our 10 month old boy. That’s when I found out that the day care staff picked up the phone and called the Social services. After 2 days of investigation – the day care were very sorry (after my son’s pedia sent them a letter confirming about his MS) The Social Services said that it’s the first time in our county to have this kind of “case”. Oh really? How ignorant! The day care center didn’t chase us for the remaining 2 weeks payment. For what?