A BABY boy was born with a strange purple lump on the top of his head, surrounded by a ring of long dark hairs.
Doctors diagnosed the tot with a rare neural defect that caused brain tissue to spill out of his skull.
The condition – called aplasia cutis congenita – is believed to affect between one to three in every 10,000 children, according to a report published in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
It was the peculiar ring of hair surrounding the purplish bump that lead stumped doctors to connect the dots.
Known as a 'hair collar sign' it can point to what's called a neural tube defect.
These occur when the neural tube that forms a baby's brain and spine when it's developing in the womb doesn't close properly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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This can result in the brain tissue poking out of the scalp and forming a lump.
Doctors where then able to diagnose the little boy with rare aplasia cutis congenita, which babies to be born without skin on part of their body, most often the scalp.
Affected tots might also be missing certain structures that usually lie under the skin, such as connective tissues and bone.
"Aplasia cutis congenita […] most commonly occurs on the scalp but can affect any part of the body," researchers wrote.
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Doctors aren't sure what causes it exactly, but an infection in the womb, exposure to drugs and gene mutations could cause birth and neural tube defects, they added.
NHS guidance said a lack of folic acid before and in the early stages of pregnancy could also be a significant risk factor.
The CDC recommended that women who've already had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
You can buy folic acid tablets in pharmacies. According to the British Dietetic Society, the vitamin is also present in foods like:
- Spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli
- Beans and legumes – chickpeas, lentils, black eyed beans, kidney beans
- Fortified foods – some brands of breakfast cereals
- Nuts and seeds
- Yeast and beef extracts
- Oranges and orange juice
- Wheat bran and other wholegrain foods
- Poultry, pork, shellfish and liver
When doctors initially diagnosed the boy at two weeks old, initial scans of his head didn't show any brain tissue in the lump.
But they chose to surgically remove the lump when he was six years old.
They found that tissue they removed showed signs of encephalocele, a neural tube defect where brain tissue projects through a hole in the skull and forms a sac-like structure on the head.
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