Spina Bifida Treatment: Symptoms & Causes

What is Spina Bifida?

Spina bifida is a form of congenital defect known as neural tube defect that causes the incomplete formation of the spine that surrounds the spinal cord. This defect is most commonly seen in the lower back but rare cases often have defect in the middle of the back and the neck.

What Are The Causes For Spina Bifida?

Medical research have not been able to determine the exact cause of spina bifida however expert believe that genetic and environmental factors play an important role in determining the development of this birth defect.

Women with a previous child afflicted with spina bifida have been found to have more chances of giving birth to another child with spina bifida. Obesity and diabetes in the women increases the chances of the newborn to have spina bifida.

Can You Get Spina Bifida at Any Age?

Spina bifida is totally congenital defect and occurs in children right after their birth. It has not been known to develop in a healthy child at a later stage. This birth defect is suspected to be influenced by certain hereditary and environmental factors such as prevalence of this defect in the family as well as diabetes and obesity in the mother.

How Does Spina Bifida Occur?

Risk factors of Spina Bifida

There are certain risk factors that have been identified that are known to increase the chances of a child being born with spina bifida.

These are:

Race

Caucasians and Hispanics have been found to be more prone of developing spina bifida.

Sex

Girls are known to be at more risk than boys in developing spina bifida at birth.

Hereditary

Couples with a child suffering from a neural tube defect have a higher chance of giving birth to another baby with the same condition.

Vitamin Deficiency

Folate is a natural form of vitamin B-9 which is important for the healthy development of a baby. Deficiency of folate has been known to increase the risk of neural birth defects such as spina bifida in a child.

Medications

Anti-seizure medicines such as valproic acid, when taken during pregnancy, are suspected to hinder the body’s ability to use folate and folic acid that can result in the baby developing neural tube defects.

Diabetes

Women with unregulated blood sugar levels during pregnancy due to diabetes increase the risk of spina bifida in the unborn child.

Obesity

Pre-pregnancy obesity is known to cause neural birth defects in the child after birth.

High Body Temperature

Hyperthermia (increased body temperature), especially during the first few weeks of pregnancy, also increases the risk of spina bifida.

Is Spina Bifida a disease or a condition?

Spina bifida is termed as a congenital defect (birth defect) by the medical fraternity which means this is a birth condition that affects the normal development of the spinal column and leaves a part of the spinal cord exposed. It cannot be actually termed as a disease as this is not a contagious condition but rather an acquired developmental disability stemming from a neural tube defect in the child during pregnancy.

What Are The Treatment Options For Spina Bifida?

The treatment method for spina bifida is mainly dependent on the severity of the condition. Mild forms of spina bifida do not require any kind of treatment usually as they do not show significant symptoms or related complications.

The more severe cases of spina bifida need to be treated as soon as possible in order to relieve the disabling and often painful symptoms.

These are the different types of treatment options for spina bifida:

Surgery

More severe forms of spina bifida such as meningocele where the enveloping tissue sheath around the brain and the spinal column (vertebras) gets affected need a surgery to put it back in its natural place.

The most severe form of spina bifida is known as ‘myelomeningocele’ in which the under-development (gaps) of the spinal column causes the spinal column to protrude from inside it. This type of spina bifida needs to be treated within the first 24-48 hours after the birth of the baby.

Surgical intervention can help decrease the risk of infection to the exposed nerves as well as help in protecting the spinal cord from trauma in the future.

The surgery involves the surgeon placing the exposed spinal cord and nerves inside the baby’s body and covering them with muscles and skin.

Prenatal Surgery

This surgery is performed when the unborn baby is diagnosed with spina bifida. The surgeon will perform the prenatal surgery before the 26th week of the pregnancy.

This procedure requires the surgeon to gain access into the mother’s uterus for performing the required correction in the baby’s spine. This is a more preferred surgical method as surgeons and doctors believe that a prenatal surgery gives the baby a natural chance to repair the minor damage to the spinal cord while still in the developing stages in the uterus.

Ongoing Care

After an initial surgery for severe forms of spinal bifida (myelomeningocele) it is necessary to get post-surgical treatment from a team of expert surgeons, physicians and therapists for reducing the symptoms of complications.

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