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Spina Bifida Types and Symptoms

Spina bifida, or "split spine", is a condition where some vertebrae in the spine do not form properly in early pregnancy and leave certain nerves unprotected, causing damage to the central nervous system. The condition can cause mobility difficulities, bowel or bladder problems or paralysis below the affected area in some cases.

Spina bifida symptoms

There are several forms of spina bifida, which can can affect 1 in 10 people. Some cases are more severe than others, or can go completely unnoticed and cause no disability.

Spina bifida occulta: There may be a visible signs of a dimple, or small hair growth on the back, which can indicate spina bifida. Often people will not be aware they have this until an x-ray is performed and usually no complications or disabilities arise.

Spina bifida cystica: A sac or cyst is present on the back, covered by a thin layer of skin. The sac will contain tissue that covers the spinal cord, fluid or even nerves and tissues from the spinal cord itself.

Spina bifida cystica (Meningocele): One form of cystica, meningocele, is characterised by a sac that contains spinal fluid and tissue, but no nerves or part of the spinal cord in the sac. In this case, nerve damage is minimal and there is little disability.

Spina bifida cystica (Myelomeningocele): In the case of myelomeningocele, the sac or cyst contains parts of the spinal cord and nerves. This results in spinal cord damage or underdevelopment and certain disabilities arising, such as paralysis or loss of sensation.

Accompanying Condition

Often with spina bifida there are accompanying conditions, such as hydrocephalus, an increased pressure in fluid to the brain which can cause some young children's heads to swell. If untreated, cases of hydrocephalus can gradualy cause brain damage and serious complications. Urniary tract infections can also accompany some spina bifida conditions.

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