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September 5th, 2011
10:14 AM ET

What are Mongolian spots?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by C.C. from Atlanta:

My newborn son has blue birthmarks on his back. The doctor called them Mongolian spots (but we are not Asian) and said they are found in darker skinned babies and not to worry. Our other kids didn't have them. What are they? Will they go away?

Expert answer:

Thanks for your question. Mongolian spots (technically named congenital dermal melanocytosis) are flat bluish-green, gray or light brown areas where cells called melanocytes have been trapped in a layer of the skin called the dermis.

These spots are present at birth or within a few weeks after and are usually on the buttocks and back although they can show up anywhere on the body.

Although named after a country in Asia, Mongolian spots can be found in any baby with relatively dark skin, including the majority of babies of Native American, Asian, Hispanic or African-American descent. In contrast, fewer than 10% of Caucasian infants have Mongolian spots.

Ask our doctors a question

For families looking for a nongeographic name for these birthmarks, I have suggested using the term "ink blots," but Mongolian spots are a commonly used term in the health care field.

Mongolian spots usually fade to a large extent, if not completely, within the first decade of life (often within the first few years). They may sometimes be associated with extremely rare - seen in fewer than one in every 100,000 newborns - metabolic problems such as mucopolysaccharidosis or gangliosidosis. If in doubt about the blue marks, be sure to double-check with your pediatrician as your son gets older or consider a visit to a dermatologist.

Since these birthmarks may sometimes be mistaken for bruises, it may be a good idea for your pediatrician to document their location in your son's medical record.

Follow @CNNHealth and @LivingWellDoc on Twitter.


soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. susie

    Both of my caucasian daughters had monglian spots at the base of their spines. On a couple of occasions people assumed they were bruises and questioned me about them!

    September 5, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kublai Khan

      Weird . . . two of my mongolian daughters had caucasian spots at the same place.

      September 6, 2011 at 15:10 | Report abuse |
    • JC

      Susie, if she had Mongolian spots then she is not Caucasian!

      June 22, 2013 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • Zsuzsa

      My granddaughter has the Mongolian spot and we are Caucasian but we are Hungarians and my husbands family can be traced back to Mongolian heritage!

      November 15, 2020 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
  2. toddflanders

    Why can't your pediatrician answer these exceedingly simple questions? If you don't understand the answer, ask again. If you don't like the answer, find a different doctor. But if you are starting this relationship by getting second opinions on the most mundane of issues, then I feel sorry for your doctor.

    September 5, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Timothy C

      @toddflanders. I see your point, but when it comes to the health of newborns, it's always best to get a second opinion if you're concerned about a particular issue.

      September 12, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
  3. Bubba

    Man, there's this Mongolian spot up the road a bit that has some great Barbecue.

    September 6, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kublai Khan

      Man! That Mongolian BBQ really hit the spot.

      September 7, 2011 at 10:21 | Report abuse |
  4. amanda

    Two of my kids have had these. My 11 yr old son had it but it disappeared by his first birthday but my 14 month olds has not disappeared yet. I just make sure to tell who is watching her about it because they do look like bruises.

    September 6, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Has anyone seen my Mongolian Dog? His name is Mongolian Spot. Send him home if you see him.

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    They mean, the jig is up!

    September 7, 2011 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Some of you guys and your jokes. You people crack me up.

    October 18, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Kaydence

    My 7 year old daughter still has mongolian spots, but they are barely noticeable now.

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    I'm turning 27 this year and i still have both of my Mongolian spots on my upper left shoulder. One is about the size of a half dollar and noticeable, green in color (like the color of noticeable veins) while the other one is smaller less than the size of a penny and feint blue. When i was younger people used to tell me I had marker on my shoulder and when I told them it was birthmark they looked at me a little weird the first time but it wasn't a big deal.

    June 18, 2013 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
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    I,have always had two flat red spots on my
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  15. Alexis Kramer

    Both my sons had this after they were born. And currently i lost both my boys because doctors and nurses have no knowledge of this being a birthmark. The doctors think that i abused my newborn because he had this mark like a couple of days after he was born. Why is it that doctors feel that these are bruises or that parents abuse their kids because of this Mongolian birthmark? Isn't this type of knowledge supposed to be learned at medical school or in class?

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.