Spina bifida is a condition which involves the incomplete development of either the brain, the spinal cord, or the covering of the brain or spinal cord, which is called the meninges. It strikes between 1,500 and 2,000 babies annually in the United States, making it the most common neural tube disorder. Most people with spina bifida lead active lives, but many need surgeries, walking devices, and other assistance. What causes spina bifida, and how is it treated? Here is what you need to know.
What Causes Spina Bifida?
Doctors aren’t sure what exactly causes spina bifida. It is likely that there are many factors at play, including genetic, nutritional, and environmental triggers. There appears to be a link between low levels of folic acid in a mother’s diet and neural tube disorders like spina bifida. For this reason, doctors often recommend that women of childbearing age take a folic acid supplement in case they become pregnant. Folic acid is also a central component of prenatal vitamins.
What Are the Symptoms of Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida symptoms vary depending on what part of the spine is impacted. In some cases, a tuft of hair, birthmark, or dimple near the defect is the only sign. In other cases, fluid-filled sacs visibly protrude from the spine. In most cases, spina bifida isn’t diagnosed by symptoms, but rather through prenatal testing. Minor cases may not be detected during pregnancy and may only be discovered after birth.
How Is Spina Bifida Treated?
Spina bifida can’t be cured, but it can be treated. In minor cases, children may not need any treatment at all. Other patients require periodic surgeries to deal with problems in the feet, hip, and spine as they grow. Some spina bifida patients need crutches, braces, or wheelchairs to be mobile.
During your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about spina bifida testing and whether you should be taking folic acid supplements. The doctors in the neurology department at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point can help patients with spina bifida manage their condition and lead healthy lives. You can find out more by calling (888) 741-5119.