What is spina bifida?
Spina bifida is a birth defect. Most children who have spina bifida do not have problems from it. It occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) do not form properly around part of the baby's spinal cord. It can affect how the skin on the back looks. And in severe cases, it can make walking or daily activities hard to do without help.
The disease can be mild or severe.
What causes spina bifida?
The exact cause of this birth defect is not known. Experts think that genes and the environment are part of the cause. For example, women who have had one child with spina bifida are more likely to have another child with the disease. Women who are obese or who have diabetes are also more likely to have a child with spina bifida.
What are the symptoms?
Your child's symptoms will depend on how severe the defect is. With a mild defect, your child may have no symptoms or problems. Or your child might have a dimple, a birthmark, or a hairy patch on his or her back.
In severe cases, you may see nerves coming out of your child's back or swelling on the spine. A child with a severe defect may have nerve damage that affects daily living. The child may have little or no feeling in the legs, feet, or arms. And he or she may not be able to move those parts of the body.
Children with a severe defect are sometimes born with fluid buildup in the brain (hydrocephalus). They may also have this problem after birth. It can cause seizures, intellectual disability, or sight problems. Some children also get a curve in the spine, such as scoliosis.
Many children who have severe spina bifida develop an allergy to latex (a type of rubber).
How is spina bifida diagnosed?
How is it treated?
Treatment depends on how severe the defect is. Most children with spina bifida have only a mild defect and may not need treatment. But a child with a severe defect may need surgery. If your child has problems from nerve damage, he or she may need a brace or a wheelchair, physical therapy, or other aids.
There are things you can do to support your child:
How can you prevent spina bifida?
Before and during pregnancy, a woman can help prevent spina bifida in her child.
All foods made from grains and sold in the United States have folic acid added. It helps prevent children from being born with spina bifida.
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