Healthy Living: ‘It was scary as it came from nowhere’

ALLIE Langham didn’t think of the pin-prick mark on her new-born daughter’s head.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 12th September 2011, 10:23 am

It was, after all, just a tiny dot - not even a scratch. And Ruby, her daughter, was just days old.

But that dot grew. And grew.

Allie, 41, from Aston, remembers it well. “It looked like a pin prick - like somebody had got the end of a ball point pen and marked her face. We just thought she’d had her skin nipped during labour and thought nothing of it. But the dot grew rapidly and alarmingly so.”

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Within one week, the barely visible mark on baby Ruby’s head had grown to a bright-red, one-inch high, volcano-shaped lump.

One month later, another pin prick appeared, this time on her face. Within weeks the spot had expanded and by the time Ruby was three months old she had a pinkish-red lesion on her cheek the size of a large pea.

“It was scary - particularly the lump on her head - as it came from nowhere,” says Allie.

“She had to have an MRI scan when she was 10 months old, that’s when the one on the top of her head reached its maximum height.”

The MRI showed that Ruby’s marks were benign. In fact, her lump was what is known as a strawberry nevus - or in her case, strawberry naevi. These curious skin-tag-like marks occur in one in every ten children.

“We’d never heard of a strawberry nevus before but the doctor was so matter-of fact about it, it made us feel a lot better. But the fact it’s fairly common doesn’t alter the fact that it is very visible and quite ugly.”

And while the lump on Ruby’s head was unusual, family and friends quickly became accustomed to it. “Her elder brother, Max, completely ignored it - he was three when she was born but never took any notice of it.”

But while those close to Ruby thought nothing of the lump on her head and face, Allie was concerned about nasty repercussions when she started school for the first time this week.

But last weekend, the small mark on Ruby’s face was removed. “Ruby couldn’t wear glasses with the strawberry nevus on her face as it is just underneath the arm of the glasses.

“I know that kids at school can be so cruel and I really didn’t want her to get bullied - especially as she was so excited about starting school.

Ruby was used to living with the marks and all her friends were used to it but that’s because they’ve gone through nursery together from being toddlers. I was worried about her starting a new school with a new set of people who hadn’t seen anything like this before, as that would make her become conscious of it and we didn’t want that.”

But the decision to have it taken off wasn’t just Allie’s.

“The plastic surgeon asked Ruby what she wanted to do about it and Ruby said ‘take it away!”

It was a difficult call for Allie though. “I feel a bit weird about it but I had to think about what was best for her.”

Strawberry naevi are bright red or pink lumpy and soft birth marks or lesions. The lesions are usually covered with small white pimples and in most cases appear soon after birth. Strawberry naevi often steadily enlarge in the first few months - sometimes weeks, as they did with Ruby. Strawberry naevi occurs in one in ten children and are the result of abnormal blood vessels that become enlarged in response to oestrogen passed on to the baby from the mother while in the womb.

In spite of their frightening appearance experts suggest leaving strawberry naevi alone because within the first few years of a child’s life they vanish completely, with the lumps slowly flattening and dissipating over time.

But there are some birth marks that are permanent. These are known as ‘port wine stains’ because of their deep red / purple appearance and are formed by abnormal blood vessels.