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Microcephaly: what is it and what are its complications

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Microcephaly is considered a sporadic neurological disorder, it occurs when a baby has a much smaller head than is deemed to be regular among other children of his age and sex. It is a condition usually identified at birth, although in many cases, the lack of development of the skull can be detected during pregnancy.

Until very recently, Microcephaly was an unusual disorder; however, the 2015 outbreaks of the Zika virus in Brazil that have affected pregnant women have increased the births of babies with this condition in this nation, making this disease monopolize the attention. That is why at FastlyHealwe explains in detail what Microcephaly is and its complications on the child’s development.

What is Microcephaly?

Microcephaly is a neurological disorder in which the baby’s head is smaller than what is considered normal. The measurement of the head circumference is usually carried out at the time of birth; this stage is when the condition is detected in many cases, although if the lack of growth of the skull is very evident, it can be seen even during pregnancy using a prenatal ultrasound.

A newborn’s head measuring 13 inches or less in cranial circumference is considered to point to Microcephaly.

This disorder can also develop during the first years of life; in that case, it will be diagnosed later by a pediatrician after routine check-ups.

Causes of this condition

During gestation and in the infant stage, the growth of our skull is given by the development of our brain; as it grows, the head must do the same. Microcephaly occurs when the development and growth of the brain are not adequate, resulting in a smaller skull than average.

Several pathologies and conditions can lead to this disorder; some of them are linked to diseases that affect the mother during pregnancy, and others to genetic conditions that the fetus develops.

Among the diseases that affect the mother during pregnancy and can cause Microcephaly we have:

Genetic disorders can cause the fetus to suffer from this condition, such as Down syndrome, trisomy 18, trisomy 21, Cornelia de Lange syndrome, Rubinstein-Taybi, Seckel, or Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndromes. Many of these conditions are detected during pregnancy.

Relationship between Microcephaly and the zika virus

In general terms, Microcephaly has always been a rare disorder; however, in 2015, the birth statistics of children with this condition in Brazil multiplied by 30. This increase in babies’ births with Microcephaly occurred in those areas that had suffered outbreaks of the Zika virus, a disease native to Uganda transmitted by the infected bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

The Zika virus is a condition similar to dengue or chikungunya that, until a few months ago, was believed to be harmless since its signals are so weak that only 20% of people have symptoms. However, when the virus affects pregnant women, it can cause Microcephaly in the fetus, as do other conditions such as rubella or toxoplasmosis.

It is not yet known how the virus acts in the mother’s body. However, the Brazilian Ministry of Health has confirmed the relationship between conditions, while the World Health Organization WHO has declared a global health emergency for neurological diseases produced by this virus.

Given this situation, the recommendation of the health authorities is to take extreme prevention measures in those areas where the Zika virus is present to avoid mosquito bites during pregnancy that could put the baby’s health at risk.

Complications of Microcephaly

The complications of Microcephaly will depend on the cause of the disease and also on the degree of development of the child’s brain.

Although some children with this condition will always have a smaller head than usual, they may enjoy average intelligence and development; however, in most cases, there are problems in the child’s intellectual and physical development, leading to complications. What:

  • Developmental delays that affect speech or motor skills.
  • Problems with balance and coordination.
  • Mental retardation.
  • Hyperactivity
  • Facial deformations
  • Height problems.
  • Seizures
  • Shorter life expectancy.

It is important to reiterate that the degree of complications of Microcephaly varies from child to child and depends mainly on the origin of this condition and the level of development of the brain. Therefore medical opinion is essential to determine the consequences of this disorder on the child.

Treatment of this condition

There is no specific treatment to reverse the complications of Microcephaly, although there are surgeries that can correct cranial deformities and improve the appearance of the head.

The applied treatment consists of enhancing the child’s development through various activities that improve their abilities, such as learning therapies, and physical therapies, among others, which will help promote their independence in each case. A child with Microcephaly should frequently go to medical consultations to perform physical examinations that allow them to verify their condition and measure the effects of the applied therapies.

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 Microcephaly: what is it and its complications, we recommend that you enter our Brain and nerves category .

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