Spina Bifida Awareness
What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is a condition where the bones in the vertebral column do not fully cover the spinal cord, leaving it exposed. From low to severe symptoms can affect the development of physical and intellect of a child.
During the first month after conception, the embryo develops a primitive tissue structure known as the neural tube.
This structure gradually develops into bones, nerves, and tissue. These eventually form the nervous system, the spinal column, and the spine, a ridge of bone that protects and surrounds the nerves.
Fast facts about Spina Bifida
- Spina bifida is a congenital condition in which the spinal column is exposed.
- Myelomeningocele is the most serious type and it is present around 60 births in every in 100,000.
- Exposure means the spinal column is more at risk of infection.
- Excess cerebrospinal fluid can build up and result in hydrocephalus, and this increases the chances of learning difficulties.
- A low intake of folic acid before and during pregnancy has been linked to spina bifida.
- Treatment options include surgery, physical therapy, and assistive devices.
There are four main types of spina bifida:
Occulta: This is the mildest form. Most patients have no neurological signs or symptoms. There may be a small birthmark, dimple or tuft of hair on the skin where the spinal defect is. The person may never know they have spina bifida unless a test for another condition reveals it by chance.
Closed neural tube defects: In this version, there can be a variety of potential defects in the spinal cord’s fat, bone, or meninges. In many cases, there are no symptoms; however, in some, there is partial paralysis and bowel and urinary incontinence.
Meningocele: The spinal cord develops normally, but the meninges, or protective membranes around the spinal cord, push through the opening in the vertebrae. The membranes are surgically removed, usually with little or no damage to nerve pathways.
Myelomeningocele: Myelomeningocele is the most severe form of spina bifida. In this condition, the spinal cord is exposed, causing partial or complete paralysis of the body below the opening. The symptoms are outlined in detail below.
An infant who is born with spina bifida may have or develop:
- weakness or paralysis in the legs
- urinary incontinence
- bowel incontinence
- a lack of sensation in the skin
- a build up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), leading to hydrocephalus, and possibly brain damage
Treatment and surgical options
Treatment depends on several factors, mainly how severe the signs and symptoms are.
Surgery to repair the spine can be done within 2 days of birth. The surgeon replaces the spinal cord and any exposed tissues or nerves back into the newborn’s body.
The gap in the vertebrae is then closed and the spinal cord sealed with muscle and skin.
If bone development problems occur later, such as scoliosis or dislocated joints, further corrective surgery may be needed. A back brace can help correct scoliosis.
Tests and diagnosis
Most cases of spina bifida are detected by a routine ultrasound scan during pregnancy.
Testing for spina bifida and other problems can be done during pregnancy, but these tests are not 100 percent accurate.
Women of reproductive age should consume 400 micrograms (mcg) a day of folic acid, a nutrient that is key to healthy fetal development.
Dark green leafy vegetables like,
- Bok Choy
- Collard Greens.
- Dark-Green Leafy Lettuce
Egg Yolks, they’re a great source of protein and contain almost every essential vitamin, including 25 mcg of folate.
Fruits like, oranges, mandarine, jack fruit, pomelo, grape fruit.
Fortified cereal bran products, General Mills, Kelloggs, Food Combos
With 4 million babies born in the United States each year, between 1,500 and 2,000 of them will be affected with spina bifida.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should take a 400 mcg folic acid supplement daily.