What is webbing of the neck?

Written by ryn gargulinski
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What is webbing of the neck?
Babies are born with webbing of the neck, which stretches as they grow (the newborn image by Sergey Galushko from Fotolia.com)

Babies are not always born perfect; sometimes, a child comes with a malformation or two. One congenital malformation is webbing of the neck. While the webbing itself does not generally lead to any health problems, the cause behind the webbing can be a concern. Webbed necks stem from a variety of causes and doctors can remove the webbing when the child is old enough for such a procedure if the webbing becomes too unsightly or troublesome.

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Definition

Webbing of the neck, also called a webbed neck or pterygium colli, is marked by a fold of skin on each side of the neck. The folds often reach from behind the ear to the shoulders. A congenital malformation, some children are born with neck webbing and it stays with them through adulthood.

Development

Neck webbing is loose in newborns, often appearing as loose flaps of skin. As the body grows, the neck webbing tightens and stretches. Older children and adults who retain their webbed necks often appear to have shortened necks or no neck at all.

Causes

Two of the more common conditions that cause a webbed neck are Turner syndrome and Noonan syndrome. The former comes from an incomplete sex chromosome and affects only females, while the latter is a genetic disorder affecting both genders. Wrong Diagnosis lists more than 100 less common causes of neck webbing.

Treatment

Leaving the neck webbing in place will not affect the body’s functioning, but it can become a cosmetic issue. Surgery removes neck webbing, often with techniques working from the back of the neck that restore the neck to its original shape and leave little scarring. Treatment of the underlying cause of the webbing depends on the condition that caused it.

Etymology

The alternate term for a webbed neck, pterygium colli, stems from Greek and Latin. The Greek word pterygion, which means wing, gives rise to pterygium, which translates to a winglike structure. While pterygion frequently refers to a fold of skin near the eye, adding the work colli specifies the neck region. Colli is a form of the Latin word collum, which means neck.

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