Understanding Spina Bifida


Spina bifida is among the most preventable conditions yet because of the fact that very few people know what it is Let alone what it is called, it remains a condition that continues to threaten the lives of expectant mothers and unborn children all over the world. Though there are many different interpretations of what this condition is, in essence it is a condition that occurs as a result of neural defects, whereby the neural tube fails to either develop or close properly. As a result, it causes defects to either the bones that make the backbone or the backbone itself.


The condition is idiopathic, but it may result from a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors such as family history of neural tube defects, nutritional problems such as folic acid deficiency or exposure to harmful substances. It is actually said that having one child with spina bifida increases the chances of having another child with the condition.


The symptoms of it occur in three forms varying with severity:

  1. Spina Bifida Occulta. This is a mild form and comes as a result of a small separation in one or more vertebrae of the spine. It is often characterized by skin discoloration, small birth mensia, collection of fat deposit on the skin and abnormal tuft of hair.


  1. Meningocele. It is a rare form of spina bifida where the meninges push out through the opening in the vertebrae.


  1. Myelomeningocele or Open Spina-Bifida. Here, the spinal cord remains open along several vertebrae on the middle or lower back. It is often characterized by muscle weakness, loss of control of bowels, paralysis or orthopedic problems. The good news is this condition can be prevented by exercise to reduce obesity during pregnancy, taking of folic acid supplements during the pregnancy period, proper management of diabetes mellitus type II and minimizing the use of toxic drugs during pregnancy.


Although Spina bifida has no cure, treatment is administered to children with the condition with the aim of ensuring an individual reaches their highest possible level of function and independence. It is recommended that parents work closely with therapist so as to learn how to exercise a child’s legs and maximize movement.

By Clara Kamau.


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