Spina Bifida - Symptoms
There are no symptoms that indicate a
pregnant woman has a fetus with
The appearance and symptoms
of a child who is born with spina bifida depend on how severe the condition
- If the spina bifida is mild, there may be no
physical sign of the condition. In some cases a birthmark, dimple, or hairy
patch may form over the defect. There are rarely any other
- In severe cases, there usually is a fluid-filled swelling on
the baby's spine. In the most severe cases (myelomeningocele ),
tissues and nerves from the spinal cord are exposed on the child's back.
Children with severe spina bifida often have parts of the
brain and upper spinal cord that are not formed normally. It is also common for
these children to have fluid on the brain (hydrocephalus).
Related problems can cause:
- Trouble swallowing, which can lead to
- Breath-holding and problems
breathing during sleep.
- Learning disability.
- Seizure disorders.
- Strabismus (sometimes called crossed-eyes), a vision
problem in which the eyes do not both look in the same direction at the same
If hydrocephalus is not treated, it can cause severe
intellectual disability or death.
The most severe form of spina bifida
(myelomeningocele) almost always affects the function of the limbs and organs
in the lower part of the body. The child's ability to walk depends on what part
of the spine is affected and how severe the spina bifida is. The lower (lumbar)
spine is affected in most cases. The higher on the spine the defect occurs, the
more severe and widespread are the problems. See a picture of the
- If the defect is in the lower spine, the child
usually is able to walk but may require ankle-foot braces and surgery to
correct foot deformities.
- If the defect is in the middle of the
spine, the child will need leg braces or crutches to walk and will need a
variety of corrective surgeries. A wheelchair may be needed when long periods
of mobility are required (for example, when shopping). Some people may use a
wheelchair at all times.
- In rare cases when the defect is higher
in the spine, it can also affect function in the arms and upper body.
Spinal cord damage caused by severe spina bifida may cause
problems such as:
- Inability to control urine or bowel movements
- Little or no feeling in
the legs and feet.
- Inability to move or feel (paralysis) the legs
and, less often, the arms.
Most children who have severe spina bifida have curvature
of the spine-scoliosis, kyphosis (hunchback), or both. It can be
present at birth or develop later in life.
Many children who have
severe spina bifida develop an
allergy to latex, a natural rubber product that is
used to make objects such as toys and health care supplies. Doctors do not know
why many children with spina bifida develop this allergy. Take extra care to
keep your child who has spina bifida away from products that contain latex.