STRANGERS on Facebook aren’t necessarily the best source of medical advice.
But baby Sophia owes her eyesight to the social media network, after a group of mums diagnosed her rare tumour.
Mum Amanda Dobbins, from Cardiff, first noticed a tiny mark on Sophia’s face when she was just a few days old – but was assured by medics that it was just a birthmark.
Amanda, a pharmacy technician, said: “ When she was 3-4 days old we could see a tiny little mark at the tip of her nose, it was like a little scratch.
“First the doctors said it was a stork bite because it was really light pink- before we left the hospital it got a bit darker so they said it’s a port wine stain and that’s where they left it.”
ut the spot soon started to grow.
Within days, it had covered half of the baby’s head and covered her eyelid – making her look like “she’d had a bucket of blood tipped over her head”.
Desperate for help, Amanda, 31, posted in a Facebook group for new mums begging for help.
“We were constantly researching, trying to find out information on port wine stain initially, what to do to keep it healthy.
“I was relieved when I posted the picture on Facebook and someone gave me some advice.
“A lady messaged me saying ‘I don’t think it’s a port wine stain, I think it’s something called haemangioma’.
Eventually, Amanda and husband Neil took her to Great Ormand Street Hospital, where Sophia was correctly diagnosed with a haemangioma.
If left untreated and because of where it was located, it could have meant the baby losing her eyesight.
Little Sophia needed treatment and despite it taking her parents almost a month to convince doctors of their baby’s condition, she’s a lot better now.
The mark has almost disappeared and her medication dosage is being reduced to check to see if it grows back.
Amanda added: “It took three days going to the hospital because her haemangioma kept bleeding and we couldn’t stop it.
What is a haemangioma?
A haemangioma is a collection of small blood vessels that form a lump under the skin.
Sometimes they’re called “strawberry marks” because the surface can look a little like the fruit.
It’s not really known why they occur but they are quite common, with one in ten babies having one.
They’re more common in girls, premature babies, babies who have a low birth weight or those who are twins or triplets.
Haemangiomas near the eye can have long-term effects on a child’s vision, so need to be checked by a specialist eye doctor (ophthalmologist).
The haemangioma can press on the eyeball, causing it to go slightly out of shape, affecting how images are focused on the retina, which in turn alters the messages sent to the brain from the eye.
If the haemangioma gets in the way of a child’s field of vision, a condition called ‘lazy eye’ (amblyopia) can develop because the brain will filter out the image from the lazy eye and will rely instead on the image produced on the retina from the ‘good’ eye.
Over time, the lazy eye loses the ability to see accurately. It is treated by forcing the brain to use the lazy eye instead of relying on the good eye.
This is usually done by covering up the good eye or blurring its vision with eye drops. This forces the brain to use the lazy eye and over time, the vision usually improves.
“Eventually they told us they’d start her on propranolol, but we’d have to stay in the hospital to be monitored.
“The medication affects her sleep, you have to be really careful with the dosage because it can affect the blood sugar and the blood pressure so you have to monitor it constantly.”
Amanda said that the family had been “very lucky with people” as only a few strangers have stared at Sophia asking if she’s fallen over and hurt her face.
“We are just grateful she is not old enough to understand that people are talking about her.
“When she gets older we want to teach her to appreciate it and learn it’s a part of who she is, and to know how much she’s been through at such a young age without realising it- she just doesn’t know how strong she is.”
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Had they just listened to doctors in the first place, it’s possible that Sophia would have lost some – or all – of the sight in her right eye.
“I dread to think what it could have caused if we had just listened to what the doctors had said,” Amanda said.
“I don’t want to think about what it could have done to her if we had just left. “
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