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Mongolian blue spots

Definition

Mongolian spots are a kind of birthmark that are flat, blue, or blue-gray. They appear at birth or in the first few weeks of life.

Alternative Names

Mongolian spots; Congenital dermal melanocytosis; Dermal melanocytosis

Causes

Mongolian blue spots are common among persons who are of Asian, Native American, Hispanic, East Indian, and African descent.

The color of the spots are from a collection of melanocytes in the skin. Melanoctyes are cells that make the pigment (color) in the skin.

If there are many spots, or a spot covers a large area, it may be a sign of an underlying disorder, such as a metabolism problem called GM1 gangliosidosis type 1.

Symptoms

Mongolian spots are 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

Mongolian blue spots are sometimes mistaken for bruises. This can raise a question about possible child abuse. It is important to recognize that Mongolian blue spots are birthmarks, 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 necessary or recommended when Mongolian spots are normal birthmarks. If treatment is needed, lasers may be used.

If the spots are a sign of an underlying disorder, 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, and 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

Hackbart BA, Arita JH, Pinho RS, Masruha MR, Vilanova LC. Mongolian spots are not always a benign sign. J Pediatr. 2013;162:1070. PMID: 23374678 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23374678.

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Melanocytic nevi and neoplasms. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 30.

Martin KL. Cutaneous nevi. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 651.

Paller AS, Mancini AJ, eds. Disorders of pigmentation. Hurwitz Clinical Pediatric Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 11.

Review Date:4/14/2015
Reviewed By:Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

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