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

      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.