Spina Bifida-Pictures, Life Expectancy, Symptoms, Treatment
What is Spina Bifida?
Also known as split spine, Spina bifida is a congenital disorder that affects the baby’s brain and spinal column. It occurs when the surrounding spine is unable to form properly, exposing the spinal cord and its surrounding tissues.
Normally, earlier in the pregnancy, a baby’s nervous system will first develop into specialized cell plates that curl up and form into neural tubes after the 28th day of conception, this tube closes and forms into human brain and spinal cord. The problems that occur during this process are what we call Neural Tube Defects which include Spina Bifida. A baby affected with spina bifida has no fully developed neural tube or has one that failed to close properly which leads to defects on the back bones and the spinal cord.
Types of Spina Bifida
• Spina bifida occulta
“Occulta” means hidden; and Spina bifida occulta is the mildest type of spina bifida. Though this condition rarely comes with symptoms and disability, it causes one or more malformed vertebrae such as some of the outer parts might not be completely closed. But the split is so small that it’s hardly noticeable.
• Spina bifida cystica
Cystica is the most severe and complex form of spina bifida. It usually involves serious or fatal neurological problems. A portion of the nerves and the spinal cord are exposed outside the body.
It is the least common form of spina bifida with the membrane surrounding the spinal cord is enlarged thus creating a lump or cyst. This is usually not visible through the skin but the cyst may expand and get exposed to the surface but not necessarily exposing the cord.
This is a serious and most severe form of spina bifida cystica. The unclosed portion of the spinal cord has no overlying membrane which exposes the baby to more life-threatening infections.
Signs and Symptoms of Spina Bifida
Symptoms may vary from one individual to another depending on the type of spina bifida. Other than the visible spinal deformity, other symptoms may include:
• Abnormal clump of hair on the spinal site
• Birthmark on the spinal site
• Small dimple on the affected area
• Fluid-filled sac at the back
Causes of Spina Bifida
The exact cause of these defects is still unknown but all pregnant women are at risk of giving birth to a child with spina bifida defects. Researchers believe that it could be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and nutritional factors like folic acid deficiency.
Though in most cases, babies with spina bifida still live normal lives with normal intelligence and normal mobility, there are severe cases wherein complications may be present such as:
• Blockage in the cerebrospinal fluid which leads to retardation/brain damage
• Loss of sensation in the lower limbs
• Learning disabilities
• Skin problems
Spina Bifida Treatment
Some cases of spina bifida don’t usually require treatment; but for severe cases, surgery is advised to keep the spinal cord in place, closed, and away from possible infections. This is usually done several hours or days after birth. Prenatal surgery is also available which is done within the 19th and 25th weeks. This surgery may look scary for everyone but studies show that this could help correct the defect by repairing or reducing the risk of further severe complications.
Spina Bifida Life Expectancy
With changes in medical technology, there has been a vast improvement in spina bifida life expectancy. 75 percent of children who had Spina Bifida have been able to live for decades after early adulthood, according to a study published in 2001. But then living well on to the adult years, needs ongoing support and medical care.