Spina bifida: causes and effects

Crippled with permanent birth defect can prove to be a shocking experience for any family member. The worst amongst them all is ‘Spina Bifida’. Derived from the Latin words ‘Spina’ and ‘Bifida’ meaning ‘spine’ and ‘split’ respectively.

In simple words, it is a malformation of the spinal cord. It is caused by an incomplete closure of one or more vertebral arches of the spine.

In Canada alone, one in every 1000 live births are born with symptoms of spina bifida. Similarly, in the United States, spina bifida occurs in about seven out of 10000 live births where common symptoms like paralysis in limbs, walking difficulties and muscular co-ordination are quite evident.

CAUSES OF SPINA BIFIDA

Referred to as one of the ‘Neutral tube defects’, it affects the totality of spinal vertebrae leading to permanent deformity and paralysis for life.

Normally, it begins in the mother’s womb, much before she knows that she is pregnant. Here the tissues fold to form a neutral tube, which may or may not be developed completely. This leads to an opening in certain parts of the vertebral arch, which in turn result into the malfunctioning of the central nervous system.

According to medical research studies, it has been proved that expectant mothers with the following health problems have a high chance of their newborn suffering from spina bifida.

  • Folic acid deficiency
  • High sugar levels
  • Obesity
  • Side effects of medicines for treating epilepsy
  • Exposure to high room temperature
  • Family history of neutral tube defects.

EFFECTS OF SPINA BIFIDA

The effects of having spina bifida vary from person to person. It depends upon the level of spina bifida. It could be of the following types:

  • Occulta
  • Meningocele
  • Myelomeningocele
  • Depending upon the type of severity of spina bifida, the following are the common effects:

  • Paralysis and loss of sensation: Paralysis, muscle weakness and loss of sensation are severe effects of spina bifida. There is lack of skin sensation, due to skin tissue breakdown leading to pressure pores.
  • Lack of bladder and bowel control: Since, the nerves that control the bladder and bowel are located in the lumbar spine incontinence are a major effect. With the result, there is a pressure on the kidneys, which may further lead to severe renal disorders.
  • Hydrocephalus: In common parlance, hydrocephalus means ‘water on the brain’. It creates a potential dangerous condition, where accumulation of spinal fluid within the brain is caused by over production of the fluid.
  • Education: Research studies have proved that most children with spina bifida have a normal intelligent quotient. While, most of them suffer from cognitive learning disorders.
  • Independence: Children with spina bifida have slim chances of leading an independent lifestyle.

WHOM TO CONSULT?

It is a gynecologist who could give you first hand pre-natal medical test reports to indicate the signs of spina bifida. Thereafter, after the birth of a newborn, it is neuro-surgeon that is responsible for further treatment and rehabilitation.

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