What is Spina Bifida?
Spina Bifida is a common birth defect and is also a part of the neutral tube defects. A fault in the spinal column where one or more vertebrae fails to develop appropriately and leaves split or gap, resulting in the damage of the nervous system. This fault is known as spina bifida. The condition of spina bifida does not cause any problem in children. This condition makes it hard to do daily activities or walking without help. This birth defect can be seen in 1-2 per 1000 live births all over the world. Spina bifida occurs during the development of the fetus while in utero.
Spina bifida can be both severe and mild. The mild form is considered at the most common form of spina bifida that does not result in any problem and also does not require any treatment. There are two types of severe forms of spina bifida which are also less common –
- Myelomeningocele: This is considered as the most severe form and is also a rare form of spina bifida. One can notice a bulge in the skin when a specific portion of the spinal nerves push out of the spinal canal. It results in damaged nerves and also causes many problems while walking, coordination and bowel control or bladder. The open skin and the nerves can be seen in some babies.
- Meningocele: In this type, there is leaking of the fluid from the spine that pushes against the skin and causes a bulge in the skin.
- Spina Bifida Occulta : This type is also very common and mild form of spina bifida. About 5-10% of people are estimated who are affected by spina bifida occulta.
What causes of Spina Bifida ?
This common birth defect has no exact causes. According some experts, environment and genes can be considered as a part of the cause. It includes –
- Uncontrolled diabetes in the mother
- Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Proper intake of folic acid during the time of conception and pregnancy can decrease the risk of spina bifida.
- Almost 90% of the cases of occur with no previous history of spina bifida. However, , when a woman gives birth to a child with spina bifida then there are more chances that other child will be born with this disease
- There are more chances of spina bifida in those women who have diabetes or are obese.
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Exposure to high temperatures
- High fever in early pregnancy
Signs and symptoms of Spina Bifida
The symptoms of spina bifida differ that depends upon the severity of the condition in the child and also on the form of the condition. The symptoms for each disease are –
Myelomeningocele: Protruding from the back, there will be a sac-like mass of spinal cord and nerves. This mass includes portions of the nerves and spinal cord and meninges. Babies who suffer from this disease will have an open spinal defect that needs urgent surgery for protecting the nerves and spinal cord and also for closing the skin.
Spina bifida occulta: There are no symptoms of this disease as the spinal cord does not protrude from the skin. There could be hairy patch, birthmark or dimple on the lower spine.
Meningocele: In this, a fluid-filled sac can protrude at the back bone area. This results in development of a large mass at the back.
Treatment of Spina Bifida
There is no cure for spina bifida. Some of its treatment options are –
- Orthopedic Surgery: Feet and leg operations can be performed for improving the mobility of the children.
- Bladder Surgery: This surgery is performed for tightening the muscles and also for increasing the bladder size.
- Surgery: Surgery is done for decreasing the risk of infection and also for closing the lesion.
- Diet and Enemas: Faecal incontinence is managed by the means of diet and enemas.
- Aids: Wheelchairs or walking aids are used.
- General Measures: Regular monitoring of bladder, spine and kidney functions is required.
- Continence Pads and Self-Catheterisation: Urinary incontinence is very essential to manage. Urinary or faecal bags are sometimes required.
Health Issues to Children with Spina Bifida
Hydrocephalus: The cerebrospinal fluid nourishes the spinal cord and the brain. Patients who have spina bifida may also experience accumulation of the fluid within the skull. Arnold Chiari malformation is responsible for causing this condition. Shunt surgery is required immediately in this condition.
Emotional Effects: A child with spina bifida can experience emotional distress such as low self-esteem, insecurity and depression.
Limited Mobility: The mobility impairment depends on the severity of every case that vary from having a little disordered gait to being assisted by a wheelchair or leg braces.