Spina bifida is a congenital neural tube defect that affects the spinal cord and the bones of the spine. It is a serious condition that can cause a wide range of physical and cognitive challenges, but early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in the lives of those affected.
Signs & symptoms
The symptoms of spina bifida can vary widely depending on the severity of the condition and the location of the spinal defect. Some common symptoms include:
- Weakness or loss of sensation in the legs
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
- Hydrocephalus (buildup of fluid in the brain)
- Orthopedic problems
In some cases, spina bifida may also cause cognitive or developmental delays.
Causes of Spina Bifida
Spina bifida occurs when the neural tube, the structure that will eventually become the brain and spinal cord, does not close properly during early development. The exact cause of this failure is not known, but certain risk factors have been identified, including:
- A family history of neural tube defects
- A lack of folic acid in the mother's diet during pregnancy
- Certain genetic conditions
- Exposure to certain environmental toxins, such as pesticides
Treatment for spina bifida is tailored to the specific needs of each individual and can include a combination of the following:
- Surgery to close the spinal defect and prevent infection
- Physical therapy to help with mobility and muscle strength
- Medications to manage symptoms such as pain or seizures
- Orthotic devices such as leg braces to support the legs
- Adaptive equipment to help with daily activities
- Educational and vocational programs to help with cognitive and developmental delays
If you think you or your child may have spina bifida, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Diagnosis can be made through prenatal testing, such as an ultrasound or amniocentesis, or after birth through physical examination and imaging tests such as an MRI.
Spina Bifida FAQs
What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is a congenital neural tube defect that affects the spinal cord and the bones of the spine. It can cause a wide range of physical and cognitive challenges.
How is Spina Bifida diagnosed?
Spina bifida can be diagnosed through prenatal testing such as ultrasound or amniocentesis, or after birth through physical examination and imaging tests such as an MRI.
Can Spina Bifida be cured?
There is no cure for Spina Bifida, but early diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected.
What are the long-term effects of Spina Bifida?
The long-term effects of Spina Bifida can vary widely depending on the severity of the condition, but can include mobility challenges, bladder or bowel control problems, cognitive or developmental delays, and orthopedic problems.
Is spina bifida preventable?
Yes, some forms of spina bifida can be prevented by ensuring that women of childbearing age get enough folic acid in their diet or through supplements.
What are the treatment options for spina bifida?
Treatment for spina bifida varies depending on the severity of the condition, but may include surgery to close the opening in the spine, physical therapy to improve mobility and strength, and medications to manage symptoms such as pain and bladder or bowel dysfunction.