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Spina Bifida is one of the most common permanently disabling birth defects. Spina Bifida literally means "split spine." Spina Bifida happens when a baby is in the womb and the spinal column does not close all of the way. Spina bifida is a developmental congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube. Some vertebrae overlying the spinal cord are not fully formed and remain unfused and open. If the opening is large enough, this allows a portion of the spinal cord to protrude through the opening in the bones. There may or may not be a fluid-filled sac surrounding the spinal cord. Other neural tube defects include anencephaly, a condition in which the portion of the neural tube that will become the cerebrum does not close, and encephalocele, which results when other parts of the brain remain unfused.
About the term Spina bifida occulta, Occulta is Latin for 'hidden'. This is the mildest form of spina bifida. In occulta, the outer part of some of the vertebrae is not completely closed. The splits in the vertebrae are so small that the spinal cord does not protrude. The skin at the site of the lesion may be normal, or it may have some hair growing from it; there may be a dimple in the skin, or a birthmark.
Many people with this type of spina bifida do not even know they have it, as the condition is asymptomatic in most cases. The incidence of spina bifida occulta is approximately 10-20% of the population, and most people are diagnosed incidentally from spinal X-rays. A systematic review of radiographic research studies found no relationship between spina bifida occulta and back pain. More recent studies not included in the review support the negative findings.
However, other studies suggest spina bifida occulta is not always harmless. One study found that among patients with back pain, severity is worse if spina bifida occulta is present.
Spina bifida meningocele and myelomeningocele are among the most common birth defects, with a worldwide incidence of about 1 in every 1000 births. The occulta form is much more common, but only rarely causes neurological symptoms.
Spina bifida malformations fall into three categories: spina bifida occulta, spina bifida cystica with meningocele, and spina bifida cystica with myelomeningocele. The most common location of the malformations is the lumbar and sacral areas. Myelomeningocele is the most significant and common form, and this leads to disability in most affected individuals. The terms spina bifida and myelomeningocele are usually used interchangeably.
No one knows the cause of the disease for sure. Scientists believe that genetic and environmental factors act together to cause the condition.
One type is called Occult Spinal Dysraphism (OSD). Infants with this have a dimple in their lower back. Because most babies with dimples do not have OSD, a doctor has to check using special tools and tests to be sure. Other signs are red marks, hyperpigmented patches on the back, tufts of hair or small lumps. In OSD, the spinal cord may not grow the right way and can cause serious problems as a child grows up. Infants who might have OSD should be seen by a doctor, who will recommend tests.
Spina Bifida Occulta is often called "hidden Spina Bifida" because about 15 percent of healthy people have it and do not know it. Spina Bifida Occulta usually does not cause harm, and has no visible signs. The spinal cord and nerves are usually fine. People find out they have it after having an X-ray of their back. It is considered an incidental finding because the X-Ray is normally done for other reasons. However, in a small group of people with SBO, pain and neurological symptoms may occur. Tethered cord can be an insidious complication that requires investigation by a neurosurgeon.
A meningocele causes part of the spinal cord to come through the spine like a sac that is pushed out. Nerve fluid is in the sac, and there is usually no nerve damage. Individuals with this condition may have minor disabilities.
Myelomeningocele (Meningomyelocele), also called Spina Bifida Cystica. This is the most severe form of Spina Bifida. It happens when parts of the spinal cord and nerves come through the open part of the spine. It causes nerve damage and other disabilities. Seventy to ninety percent of children with this condition also have too much fluid on their brains. This happens because fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord is unable to drain like it should. The fluid builds up, causing pressure and swelling. Without treatment, a person's head grows too big, and may have brain damage. Children who do not have Spina Bifida can also have this problem, so parents need to check with a doctor.
A child with Meningomyelocele usually is operated on within two to three days of birth. This prevents infections and helps save the spinal cord from more damage. A child with Meningocele usually has it treated with surgery, and more often than not, the child is not paralyzed. Most children with this condition grow up fine, but they should be checked by a doctor because they could have other serious problems, too.
A child with OSD should see a surgeon. Most experts think that surgery is needed early to keep nerves and the brain from becoming more damaged as the child grows. Spina Bifida Occulta usually does not need to be treated.
Women who are old enough to have babies should take folic acid before and during the first three months of pregnancy. If the pregnancies are unplanned, women should take a vitamin with 400 mcg (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day during the years of their lives when they are possibly able to have children. Women who have a child or sibling with Spina Bifida, have had an affected pregnancy or have Spina Bifida themselves should take 4000 mcg (4.0 mg) of folic acid for one to three months before and during the first three months of pregnancy. Folic acid is a vitamin that the body needs to grow and be healthy. It is found in many foods, but the man-made or synthetic form in pills is actually better absorbed by our bodies.
Children and young adults with Spina Bifida can have mental and social problems. They also can have problems with walking and getting around or going to the bathroom, latex allergy, obesity, skin breakdown, gastrointestinal disorders, learning disabilities, depression, tendonitis and sexual issues.
People with Spina Bifida must learn how to get around on their own without help, by using things like crutches, braces or wheelchairs. With help, it also is possible for children to learn how to go to the bathroom on their own. Doctors, nurses, teachers and parents should know what a child can and cannot do so they can help the child (within the limits of safety and health) be independent, play with kids that are not disabled and to take care of him or herself.
Hospitals like Medirtina in India provide treatment and surgeries relating to the disease. There are other hospitals in India as well which, like , provide treatment at affordable prices.
Yes. There are three tests. A blood test during the 16th to 18th weeks of pregnancy. This is called the alpha-fetoprotein (AFP screening test). This test is higher in about 75-80 % of women who have a fetus with Spina Bifida. An ultrasound of the fetus. This is also called a sonogram and can show signs of Spina Bifida such as the open spine. A test where a small amount of the fluid from the womb is taken through a thin needle. This is called maternal amniocentesis and can be used to look at protein levels.
All the tests are available in at affordable prices.