Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"What are those spots?"

Both our kids have birthmarks.  Actually, the doctor said that "birthmark" isn't quite the right term, because what they have isn't usually there at birth - it shows up a few weeks later.  The technical term for it is "hemangioma."

So what's a hemangioma?  Here's a definition from BabyCenter:
Hemangioma: This term is used to describe a variety of blood-vessel growths. These flat or raised lesions can be large and disfiguring or small and not very noticeable. Hemangiomas affect about 2 to 5 percent of babies and are more common in girls, preemies, and twins. Twenty percent of children who have hemangiomas have more than one. Hemangiomas occur mostly on the head and neck, and, unlike other birthmarks, they can grow rapidly. They usually show up during the first six weeks of life — only 30 percent are visible at birth — and grow for about a year, usually getting no bigger than 2 or 3 inches. Then, without treatment, they usually stop growing and begin to turn white and shrink. This reversal process can take three to ten years. While many hemangiomas leave normal-looking skin in their wake, others can cause permanent skin changes. One type of hemangioma, a superficial hemangioma (formerly called a strawberry hemangioma), appears on about 2 to 5 percent of babies (this is the kind my kids have). This raised pink-red mark tends to grow and then disappear — half are flat by age 5, and nine out of ten are flat by age 9. A deeper hemangioma (formerly called a cavernous hemangioma) appears as a lumpy bluish-red mass. It grows quickly in the first six months and is usually gone by the time a child reaches his teens. Such hemangiomas are bluish in color because the abnormal vessels are deeper than those in the superficial hemangioma.
2 months
Annika's birthmark is on her neck, under her chin.  When I first noticed it (a few weeks after she was born), I thought that I was a terrible mother, and my beautiful, new baby had a rash on her neck because I hadn't been washing her properly (you know how that spit up can get into every little nook and cranny!).  
7 months
I showed it to the doctor at our next visit, and he assured me that I had nothing to do with it.  He said that they usually left these kind of "birthmarks" alone (as long as they didn't interfere with vision, breathing, etc), as they tended to resolve on their own better than with treatment. Since her double chin covered it up most of the time, we hardly ever saw it.  It "grew" until she was about 6 months, and then started to go away.  I don't remember exactly when it started to shrink and it's hard to tell from pictures because it's not visible in most pictures, unless she's looking up at the right angle.  It's still visible now (just a few small dots), but it's in such an inconspicuous spot that it doesn't get much attention.  As you can see in this picture below, it's almost completely gone (and that picture was taken about 6 months ago).

2 1/2 years (being a bit silly!)

        About 7 weeks, barely visible                                     4 1/2 months

Emmett's birthmark is on the bridge of his nose, so it's more prominent than Annika's but smaller in size.  When I saw the first 2 spots show up, a couple weeks after he was born, I knew right away what it was.  Actually for the first few days, I hoped that it was just a scratch and it would go away, but I realized pretty quickly that it would be here for a while.  A few weeks after the first 2 spots appeared (and started to get bigger), a bunch more little dots showed up.  Those haven't increased in size yet, and they just look like a sprinkling of freckles (except they're red). The bigger 2 dots are quite noticeable, and we've had quite a few people ask whether he's scratched himself, or even if he has pimples.  I don't mind these questions.  I really don't notice the spots anymore - they're just a part of Emmett. And I know that they won't be there forever - hopefully they'll be mostly gone by the time he starts school, so it's not something he gets teased about. 

No comments: