Treatment[ edit ] There is no known cure for nerve damage caused by spina bifida. Standard treatment is surgery after delivery. This surgery aims to prevent further damage of the nervous tissue and to prevent infection; pediatric neurosurgeons operate to close the opening on the back. The spinal cord and its nerve roots are put back inside the spine and covered with meninges.
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Overview Spina bifida is what is known as a neural tube defect. It occurs during development prior to birth. It may also appear as a sack of fluid that has grown outside the body on the spine. This sack may or may not include the spinal cord inside. There are three types of spina bifida: myelomeningocele, meningocele, and spina bifida occulta.
Myelomeningocele This is the most common and serious type of spina bifida. This sack contains parts of the spinal cord and nerves. The spinal cord and nerves in the sack will be damaged. People with myelomeningocele have physical disabilities that range from moderate to severe. However, the sack does not contain any part of the spinal cord. Spina bifida occulta This is a mild type of spina bifida.
It does not cause any disabilities and may go unnoticed until later in life. In this type, there is no damage to the spinal cord or the nerves. The symptoms of spina bifida are different for each type. They can also vary from person to person within each type. Spina bifida occulta Symptoms of spina bifida occulta include: a gap in between vertebrae no visible opening outside no fluid-filled sack outside the body small birthmark or dimple on the back small group or cluster of hair on the back an area of extra fat on the back A person may not ever know they have this type of spina bifida.
Causes of spina bifida All of the exact causes of spina bifida are not specifically understood. However, it involves a combination of genetics and environmental factors. A child born with spina bifida may not have any relatives with the condition, even though genetics play a factor. Other factors that are believed to play a role include: diabetes in the mother that is not well controlled some medications Spina bifida is not curable, so it will need to be managed your entire life.
In children For children, treatment focuses on determining the extent of symptoms and disabilities as they develop and preventing those that can be prevented. Childhood is also the time for parents and medical staff to instill a positive attitude toward treatment and management to help the child develop a positive outlook.
In adults By adulthood, the majority of symptoms and disabilities are known. Coping mechanisms, medications, therapies, and any walking aids are normally in place. Many children with spina bifida grow up to attend college and have careers.
Some also live independently. However, ongoing medical issues can develop throughout the life of a person with spina bifida. Further, some people with more severe disabilities may struggle socially due to stigma and have difficulty finding careers that will fit with their disabilities.
However, a good support network can help ease the negative effects. Treatment The treatment for spina bifida will be different for each person because symptoms and severity can vary.
In some cases, especially in spina bifida occulta, there may not be any treatment needed. However, myelomeningocele and meningocele require surgery to put the exposed sack and nerves back in place. Some of it may also require removal. The surgeon will then close the opening over the vertebrae. There may be a shunt put in place to avoid complications later in life. In some cases, prenatal surgery may be done while the baby is still in the womb.
You should talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of both types of surgery. Even after surgery is performed, some symptoms and disability can remain. They will need to be managed based on the severity of each symptom.
Paralysis and bowel and bladder issues typically remain throughout life. Treatment for remaining symptoms can include: additional surgeries.
What Is Spina Bifida?