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What Is Spina Bifida?


What Is Spina Bifida? By Gray Rollins

 

 

The spine is the center of all communications that take place in the body. Messages to and from the various organs pass through the spine. Any damage to the spine therefore, results in the non-communication or defective communication of messages transmitted by the brain. In extreme cases, this results in paralysis.


 Spina Bifida

The spine is the center of all communications that take place in the body. Messages to and from the various organs pass through the spine. Any damage to the spine therefore, results in the non-communication or defective communication of messages transmitted by the brain. In extreme cases, this results in paralysis.

Spina bifida is one of the most common birth defects associated with the neural tube. Commonly referred to as 'open spine,' this condition affects the backbone and the spinal cord. In the U.S, it is seen more frequently among whites of European origin and Hispanics.

How does it occur?

A healthy spine consists of a tiny ribbon of tissues that fold and form a protective tube-like covering over the spinal cord. The neural tube is formed 28 days after conception. Sometimes, this process goes awry and the tube does not close completely. The result is a defective vertebrae and spinal cord. The nerves in such a spinal cord may be damaged.

There are 3 forms of spina bifida:

Occulta: This is the safest form of spina bifida. Here, skin and muscles cover the opening in the back and the spinal cord is more or less normal. Most affected individuals have little or no problems.

Meningocele: Meninges (of the meningitis fame) are the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. In this condition, the meninges (and not the nerves) form a small lump when they push through the opening in the vertebrae. The child will have to undergo surgery later on to prevent any subsequent nerve damage.

Myelomeningocele: This is the condition that most people refer to when they talk about spina bifida. In its most chronic form, the sac that pushes through the vertebrae consists of the meninges as well as the nerve roots of the spinal cord and sometimes the cord itself. Alternatively, the spine may show a fully exposed section of the nerves and the spinal cord. The fluid from the spine may leak out. The babies thus affected (1 in every 1,000 in the U.S) risk infection until the opening is closed surgically. Even so, the chances of nerve damage are very high and children usually suffer from some degree of paralysis, bladder, and bowel control problems. The severity of the paralysis is determined by the spinal nerves that are affected. Generally, the higher the cyst, the more severe the paralysis will be.

There are no known reasons for spina bifida. Though some families have shown a recurrent pattern, there is no evidence that spina bifida is hereditary.

Spina bifida may occur along with other birth defects. Women suffering from some chronic health problems like diabetes are at increased risk of producing babies with this defect.

Hydrocephalus is an associated problem for such children. This refers to a situation when there is too much fluid in the brain and the head enlarges to make space for this fluid. If left untreated, this may lead to mental retardation and neurological damage. Obesity, urinary tract disorders, sexual and psychological problems, and learning disabilities are associated problems.

Treatment

Children who suffer from the chronic myelomeningocele usually go in for surgery within 24-48 hours of birth. Doctors gently tuck the exposed nerves in and cover it with muscle and skin. Immediate surgery prevents further damage of the nerves. Close on the heels of surgery comes physiotherapy. Parents are taught to exercise their baby's legs. Both parents and children have to be prepared for leg braces and crutches, though 70% of the affected children are successful in avoiding these.

 

Article Provided by Secrets of the Healthy

 

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