Can propranolol be used to treat Sturge-Weber syndrome or diminish the appearance of port-wine birthmarks?

NOVEMBER 3, 2016

Question: I have heard that propranolol makes hemangiomas go away.  Can it be used to treat Sturge-Weber syndrome or diminish the appearance of port-wine birthmarks?

Answer:
Propranolol, a blood pressure medication, can also shrink hemangiomas in the majority of patients. However, the port-wine birthmarks caused by Sturge-Weber syndrome are not actually hemangiomas, which means the abnormal blood vessels behave very differently. Eye drops similar to propranolol are used in the eye to help control glaucoma, and propranolol or other beta-blockers can be used to prevent migraines in patients with Sturge-Weber syndrome, but there is no evidence that propranolol can cure Sturge-Weber syndrome or make port-wine birthmarks go away.

If you have questions about what kind of birthmark you or your child has and how to treat it, be sure to see a vascular dermatologist. If you are coming to the Hunter Nelson Center for Sturge-Weber Syndrome, please arrange to see one of our vascular dermatologists. 

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