Spina Bifida - Symptoms

The symptoms of spina bifida depend on the location and size of the opening. Most patients have some degree of weakness in the legs. In the most extreme cases, there may be complete paralysis. The higher up the spine the defect occurs, the more severe the disabilities a person will have.

A medical procedure in which a sample of the fluid surrounding the fetus in a woman's womb is withdrawn and examined.
A thin tube inserted into the body to allow fluids to be sent into or taken out of the body.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF):
The fluid that surrounds tissues in the brain and spinal column.
Computed tomography (CT) scan:
A technique in which X-ray photographs of a particular part of the body are taken from different angles. The pictures are then fed into a computer that creates a single composite image of the internal (inside) part of the body. CT scans provide an important tool in the diagnosis of brain and spinal disorders, cancer and other conditions.
Computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan:
Another name for a CT scan.
Genetic disorder:
A medical problem caused by one or more defective genes.
An abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain.
A test in which a dye is injected into the spinal column to allow examination of the spine with X rays or a CT scan.
Neural tube:
A structure that forms very early in the life of a fetus and eventually develops into the central nervous system of the body.
Ultrasound test:
A medical procedure in which a sound wave is transmitted into a pregnant woman's womb. The reflections produced from the sound wave can be studied for the presence of abnormalities in a fetus.

People with spina bifida often have severe bowel and bladder problems related to the spinal cord's inability to send the signals necessary for emptying them. Difficulty in emptying the bladder can lead to serious, even life-threatening infections of the kidney.

Another complication of spina bifida may be hydrocephalus (pronounced (HI-droh-SEF-uh-luss). Hydrocephalus is also known as water on the brain. The fluid present in hydrocephalus is not water, but cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a liquid that surrounds tissues in the brain and spinal cord. Spina bifida may force large amounts of CSF into the brain. The excess fluid causes pressure on the brain, damaging brain tissue.

Many children with spina bifida also have other problems with bone structure. These problems may include clubfeet, hip dislocation, and abnormal curves and bends in the spinal column.

Intelligence in patients with spina bifida varies widely. Though people with the disease might have normal intelligence, in some cases the disease can cause severe mental retardation.

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