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What are cafe au lait spots?

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Quick Answer

Cafe au lait spots are birthmarks that appear as a light tan or brown spot, according to WebMD. These spots typically appear at birth, but may develop within the first couple of years. A cafe au lait spot may simply be a birthmark, but if there are several cafe au lait spots, and the spots are larger than a quarter, it may indicate the child has neurofibromatosis.

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For those who have a cafe au lait birthmark, a doctor often examines the mark to diagnose it, explains MedlinePlus. The individual may need a biopsy to look for changes in the birthmark, which may be a sign of cancer. The doctor may also take photos of the birthmark to track changes over the years. Usually, there is no treatment necessary for a birthmark, but if treatment is necessary, it depends on the type of birthmark and any other conditions.

If the cafe au lait spot affects the individual's appearance or self-esteem, doctors recommend special cosmetics to cover the birthmarks, states MedlinePlus. Other signs that a person must see a doctor for a birthmark include bleeding, itching, inflammation, pain or sores. If there is a risk of cancer or if the appearance of a birthmark affects the individual, surgery may be possible. There are also organizations, such as Nevus Outreach, that offer support for those with large birthmarks.

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