The Spina bifida is a defect that develops during gestation whose malformation starts with the neural tube during the fourth week of pregnancy. At the end of the fifth month, the posterior vertebral arches do not close completely, leaving the spinal cord uncovered and without the bony protection that defines it.
This malformation frequently occurs in the lower back, lumbar and sacral areas, but it can also develop in any part of the spine. There is mostly a medical dependence in its severe variants, and it produces physical disabilities.
This disorder has a frequency of incidence of 1 or 2 babies affected by 1000 babies born alive, and the risks of its occurrence are latent in every pregnancy. However, there are factors with a greater predisposition. For this reason, at FastlyHealwe inform you about spina bifida: types, causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Hidden spina bifida
The malformation that causes the neural tube can occur in various variants, some more serious and more frequent than others. In spina bifida occulta, the development of the vertebral arches is incomplete, but there is no alteration in the spinal cord; that is, there is no extension of the meninges or herniation that compromises the nerves since the malformation of the spine remains below the skin.
This spina bifida is usually uncomplicated and occurs mainly in the lower lumbar area.
Open or cystic spina bifida
This category represents the most difficult situations, and the malformation is evident, being able to appreciate a lump in the affected place of the back. The variants in which it is divided are:
- Meningocele . It develops as a cyst or hernia of the meninges and is filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Sometimes it can contain a part of the pith or roots, although these work correctly. Usually, this bump is covered with skin, but there may be cases where it is not present. Its frequency is 10-15% in patients with cystic spina bifida. It is a low risk since there is usually no damage to the spinal cord or loss of nerve impulses.
- Myelomeningocele. In this form of spina bifida cystica, the pons of the meninges contain cerebrospinal fluid and parts of the spinal cord, compromising the nerve roots and seriously affecting neurological functions. The cyst does not have a layer of skin covering it, so the tissue is exposed. It occurs in 80% of spina bifida cystica. It is the most severe variant due to the numerous complications that can occur, such as meningitis, hydrocephalus, and partial or complete paralysis of the body below the malformation site, with possibilities of intestinal and urinary dysfunction.
- Lipomeningocele. Unlike the other variants of spina bifida cystica, the pons contains lipomatous tissue and leak through the incomplete vertebral arches, coming into contact with the medullary canal and pressing on it, which could affect its functions and the nerves. It is a rare variant but considered serious due to the possible neurological alterations when the spinal cord is compressed, leading to partial paralysis. However, there are cases in which there are mild symptoms.
Possible causes of spina bifida
It is not sure why sometimes the neural tube does not develop normally. Still, there are hypotheses about the factors that could intervene in the origin of spina bifida, which are:
- Nutrient deficiency before and during pregnancy is considered the first cause of spina bifida. The recommended intake of folic acid and vitamin B is essential, mainly for the proper development of the neural tube and the rest of the body, thus avoiding many disorders.
- Genetic factors. There may be a mutation in one or more genes that promote the alteration in the development of the neural tube or some other element that stops its correct formation.
- Family history . The risk of a baby being born with spina bifida increases if a sibling has it or if several cases in the family.
- Diseases in pregnant women. The consumption of certain hormones or drugs, such as insulin or anticonvulsants, and even diseases such as obesity, increase the baby’s risk of spina bifida.
Primary symptoms of spina bifida
The symptoms of spina bifida will depend on the type of disorder and the person’s predisposition. In the case of occult spina bifida, there are often no visible signs, but a slight cleft , a birthmark on the skin, or a tuft of hair may be present at the site of the spinal malformation.
On the other hand, in spina bifida cystica, a fluid-filled lump or bump is seen on the back that extends through the spinal cord. Depending on the variant of this disorder, there may or may not be a layer of skin covering the bump. If this is not present, the spinal cord tissue is exposed and prone to infections of various types.
Treatment to relieve symptoms of spina bifida
There is no treatment to correct spina bifida, the damage, or the loss of the nerves involved. However, several methods can be used to control and prevent future injuries; These will depend on the type of spina bifida, and it is possible to intervene in the first hours of birth.
The patient with spina bifida occulta does not generally need treatment or surgery since it does not usually involve the nerves or cause other injuries. However, you may want to visit your doctor for regular check-ups unless told otherwise. Surgical intervention in spina bifida cystica variants is essential. It consists of eliminating the lump or protrusion with liquid observed in the back, trying to preserve the more significant proportion of neurological tissue, and closing the injury. With this, in addition to reducing and avoiding further damage to tissues and nerves, infections are prevented by exposing the tissues to harmful microorganisms and complications such as meningitis and even paralysis.
When other elements of the body have been compromised, some surgeries are carried out to remedy them, as occurs when hydrocephalus occurs, and the cerebrospinal fluid has to be drained, or to improve the functions of the extremities or hips.
On the other hand, physiotherapeutic treatments may be required to perform physical exercises, although they can be accompanied by other techniques using light, heat, cold, or water. The purpose is to help the patient move more efficiently and give him some independence. However, the result of the exercises will depend on the injuries that the spina bifida has produced. The specialist will establish the physiotherapeutic techniques and will be modified as required by the needs of the patient with spina bifida. Also, in many cases, it is necessary to use orthopedic devices, such as crutches or wheelchairs.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to Spina bifida: types, causes, symptoms and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Brain and nerves category .
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.