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Home > Research Articles > Childrens Birthmarks Upset Parents


Tuesday, May 27, 2003

HealthNewsDigest.com - May 26, 2003


CHICAGO The parents of children with hemangiomas (large, often red birthmarks usually found on the face that are caused by blood vessel abnormalities) are more likely to experience emotional and psychological distress over their childs condition than the children themselves, according to an article in the May/June issue of The Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Hemangiomas are the most common vascular lesions of infancy and childhood, affecting an estimated 1 percent to 3 percent of all newborns and 10 percent of infants by the age of one year, according to information in the article. Most hemangiomas occur on the head and neck (60 percent) and 20 percent of patients have more than one hemangioma. Because hemangiomas can be disfiguring, they can cause psychological distress for the child and parents, but most hemangiomas disappear by the time a child reaches school age. However, in cases where the hemangioma does not resolve, families may experience anxiety, and may even be accused of child abuse, according to the article. There are currently many treatments for hemangiomas, including laser treatment, steroid treatment and surgery.

Edwin F. Williams, III, M.D., of the Williams Center for Facial Plastic Surgery, Latham, N.Y., and colleagues surveyed the families of 39 children who were treated for hemangiomas about the parents and childs emotional attitudes regarding the hemangiomas and their treatment. The hemangiomas were present between birth and 8 weeks old in the 39 children. The children were first taken to the Vascular Birthmarks Clinic in Latham, N.Y. between the ages of 2 weeks and 144 weeks by their parents for an initial consultation about possible treatments for the hemangiomas.

The researchers survey found that there was a negative effect on the childs family, with considerable fear due to comments by others made in public. Parents responded that they believed their child was not deeply affected by his or her condition or by treatment (laser, corticosteroid injections, oral corticosteroids, surgery, or a combination). However, most parents said that their children were too young to appreciate his or her malady.

Our results indicate that the parents bear the burden of psychological distress concerning their childs disease and that the young child remains relatively unaware of his or her condition, according to parents perceptions, write the authors. Earlier treatment protocols may account for the immature childs immunity from psychological repercussions.

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