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Spina bifida is a birth defect, belonging to the group of neural tube defects. The neural tube is the embryonic structure that is responsible for the development of the brain, spinal cord and the tissues that surround them.
Neural mold forming the spine of the child close to 28 days after fertilization, but in the case of children with spina bifida the neural tube does not develop properly, causing damage to the spinal cord and the bones of the spine.
Spina Bifida can occur in various forms of advancement, and in most cases, it is necessary surgical treatment.
The symptoms of spina bifida
Spina bifida occurs in three types, depending on the severity of the condition:
Spina bifida occulta – the mildest form, which revealed a small separation or gap in one or more bones (circles) of the spine. Since in this embodiment, the spinal nerves are not damaged, most children with this type of defects, does not have any signs or symptoms associated with experiencing neurological problems. Among the visible signs of this form of spina bifida can be seen:
- an abnormal clump of hair,
- accumulation of fat,
- a small dimple or birthmark.
Many people with this type of spina bifida, does not even have its consciousness, and it is most frequently diagnosed during a X-rays or other imaging tests unrelated to the defect.
Spina bifida, meningocele – a rare form of defects manifesting itself in the shape of a protective membrane around the spinal cord (meningitis), which push through the holes in the vertebrae of the spine. In this type of the disease, spinal cord, most often develops normally, and the membrane can be removed surgically without or with minimal damage to nerves.
Open spina bifida – meningomyelocele most severe form of the defect. In this case, the spinal canal remains open, usually at the bottom or middle back. Due to this opening, both membranes and spinal cord extend at birth, creating a kind of pouch on the back. There are cases where the skin covers the bulge, but most frequently connective tissue and nerves are very sensitive and are often very vulnerable to life-threatening infections.
- muscle weakness in the legs – including paralysis,
- bladder and bowel problems,
- orthopedic problems including deformation of the feet, hips, and curvature of the spine (scoliosis).
The causes of spina bifida
So far, is not discovered what exactly causes the spina bifida, but as in the case of similar birth defects, is a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as family history of neural tube defects and folic acid deficiency.
Among the risk factors for the appearance of defects may be mentioned:
- sex – girls more often suffer from illness,
- the family history of neural tube defects – if one of the children has a birth defect, in the subsequent risk of defects is greater,
- folic acid deficiency – it is a fundamental component of healthy child development, and its deficiencies increase the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects
- use of certain drugs such as valproic acid, because it can interfere with the body’s ability to use folic acid,
- diabetes – problems with excess blood sugar in pregnant women, may increase the risk of spina bifida in children,
- obesity – pregnancy in obese women carries the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida,
- increased body temperature (fever, use of the sauna or hot bath) in the first weeks of pregnancy may increase the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus.
Along with spina bifida, there may also be other complications, such as severe disabilities physical and mental, and many others.
Diagnosis and treatment spina bifida
Diagnosing faults, which is spina bifida is possible already during the prenatal testing during pregnancy, but they are not entirely sure. There are performed blood tests, ultrasound, and amniocentesis.
The most common treatment involves making a surgical procedure, which is intended to put the meninges in place and close the opening between the vertebrae. Meningomyelocele is typically operated within 24-48 hours after birth, to minimize the risk of infection – exposed nerves are in fact extremely fragile, and easily gets infections and injuries.
There are some occasions where doctors undertake a fetal surgery when the procedure is performed in the uterus of a pregnant mother. This method can increase the probability of success in the treatment of spina bifida, but is associated with a significant threat to the mother, and premature birth.
The treatment does not end with the surgery, because the child often requires even a few additional operations, and later need to long-term rehabilitation. Often, children with neural tube defects, are disabled by nerve damage. Any complications, however, are dependent on the severity of spina bifida and appropriate treatment.