Mottled Skin in Infants and Babies: Causes and Treatment

There is no cause for alarm if a mother gives birth to a newborn that shows evidence of mottled skin. Mottling of skin is just development of uneven patches on skin. There are many natural causes for mottling of the skin in infants and young children. Most cases disappear on their own without any treatment.
Skin mottling is also known as dyschromia. It is a result of blood vessel changes under the skin. The skin may be colored red, brown, purple depending on the condition. These patches are nothing but blood under your skin.

Causes of Mottled Skin in Infants

Skin mottling or Cutis Marmorata can be typically seen in newborn infants.
  • During the time of delivery, skin mottling can develop as a result of broken blood vessels present on the upper layer of the skin.
  • It produces a typical marbled appearance of the skin.
  • Cutis Marmorata or skin mottling also appears when the infant passes stools.
  • An intensely cold environment can also cause mottling of the skin.
    This is due to dilatation of a few capillaries on the upper surface of the skin as a result of the cold temperature.
  • The skin changes consist of circumscribed, pink patches measuring 2 to 3 cms. in diameter, bordered by a bluish discoloration. They produce a striking marble polish effect.
  • Mottled skin in infants usually involves trunk and extremities in varying degrees. The nose, lips and genitalia are seldom involved.

Casues of Skin Mottling in Babies

Throughout their growth and development, parents can sometimes observe skin color changes on their babies. These skin color changes can be described as a mottling of purplish, pink, and sometimes blue on different areas of the baby’s body.
  • A change in skin color is due to an underdeveloped circulatory system.
  • Babies often exhibit mottling of the skin due to their immature circulatory system.
  • The nerve supply to the fine blood vessels on the upper skin layer is still immature. This can result in uneven contraction and dilatation of the blood vessels on different parts of the skin. This can cause skin mottling.

Mottled Skin in Children: Causes

As babies grow up to become young children, mottled skin should no longer be a worry for parents. Usually, by this time their circulatory system is well developed.
  • During development, parents may notice that a child’s hands and feet are bluish as compared to the rest of the body.
  • Parents may also observe that a child is pink on one side and blue on the other side.
  • When children cry, mottling may be exhibited.
  • Mottling also occurs when children are cold.
  • These are all signs of an immature circulatory system.
  • A child may feel withdrawn and have low self esteem as a result of skin mottling.
  • Over time, these symptoms will vanish as the circulatory system develops fully.
  • Mottling or bluish discoloration that persists should be reported to the doctor immediately.

Treatment of Skin Mottling

The main cause for mottled skin or Cutis Marmorata is the immature circulatory system of an infant or child.
  • No medical treatment is indicated at this time for mottled skin in infants or children.
  • Treatment is often symptomatic. Parents are encouraged to address the mottling as it occurs.
  • When a child is cold, tuck him under a blanket and keep him warm. Adjust the room  temperature to a level where you child feels comfortably warm.
  • When a child appears flushed, check his body temperature around the neck or along the face.
  • The child may need psychological support, especially when somebody mentions the visible patches that makes him feel low and self-conscious.
  • Skin mottling vanishes gradually as the child grows into adolescence.

4 thoughts on “Mottled Skin in Infants and Babies: Causes and Treatment

  • March 14, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Does skin mottling occur in adults? What are the causes of skin mottling in adults?

    • March 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      Skin mottling can occur in adults as well as in children. Mottling can occur due to changes in the blood vessels. In adults it can be due to fluctuation in body temperature. It may be observed when a person is suffering from high fever. It is more obvious in fair skinned individuals. The other reason is growing age, blood disorder, and heart ailment.

  • March 27, 2012 at 2:58 am

    What will be the complications of dilated blood vessels (mottled skin) of infants when he grows is 20 years of age.

    • April 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Generally mottled skin in infants and children disappear after they grow. So there is no known obvious complication noted when he becomes adult.


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