Here are some questions Iím frequently asked about Spina Bifida answered with some basic information. However, please read this first: Medical Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this website is not a substitute for medical treatment as provided by medical personnel. The information on these pages do not constitute medical advice or treatment instruction of any kind. For medical advice and/or treatment please see your medical doctor. Thank you. (Click on each section heading below to read more.)

1.What is Spina Bifida?

2. What are the different types of Spina Bifida and what are their symptoms?

3. What causes Spina Bifida?

4. Who is at risk for Spina Bifida?

5. What can be done to prevent Spina Bifida?

6. How common is Spina Bifidia?

7. Is there a cure?

1). What is Spina Bifida?

It is a congenital birth defect and is also known as a neural tube defect (of which Spina Bifida is the most common). In short, the bones (vertebrae) that are supposed to protect and cover the spinal cord do not fully develop during pregnancy. In severe cases this results in a completely open spine. There are three types of Spina Bifida: spina bifida occulta, spina bifida cystica (myelomeningocele), and meningocele.

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2.) What are the different types of Spina Bifida and what are their symptoms?

Spina Bifida Occulta: As many as 20% of the population is believed to have spina bifida occulta and not know it. This defect involves only a very small portion of the bony part of the spine and there is usually no exposed portion of the spinal cord. As a result, there are seldom any symptoms related to this type of Spina Bifida.

Meningocele: The least common form of Spina Bifida. The vertebrae develops normally however, meninges protrude between openings in the vertebrae. Very often there is a cyst on the babyís back at birth but no opening. There are rarely any life threatening symptoms as a result of this defect.

Meningomylocele: This is the most commonly diagnosed form of Spina Bifida and the most serious. The bony part of the spine is not completely developed. With the spine being unfused the spinal cord protrudes through these openings. In some cases, the opening goes through to the skin on the babyís back (lesion). There are many symptoms that can result from this form of Spina Bifida (some of them life threatening, especially if left untreated) including: infection, paralysis as a result of nerve damage or under development, incontinence, Hydrocephalus (water on the brain), limb deformities, muscle atrophy, scoliosis, learning disabilities, skin ulcers, etc.. The symptoms experienced and the severity of these symptoms depend on the level the lesion is located on the spine (the higher the level the more function is impaired or lost).

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3.) What causes Spina Bifida?

The causes of Spina Bifida are still unknown although certain hereditary, environmental, and dietary factors are suspected.

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4.) Who is at risk for Spina Bifida?

The follow groups are at higher risk:
-Mothers of child bearing years with low Folic Acid in their diets
-Mothers who have previously given birth to a baby with Spina Bifida
-Mothers who are have diabetes and are dependent on insulin
-Mothers who have taken certain anti-seizure medications
-Mothers who are obese
-Mothers who experienced a high fever early in the pregnancy
-Mothers who used hot tubs early in the pregnancy
-White and Hispanic mothers
-Mothers from poor economic groups.

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5.) What can be done to prevent Spina Bifida?

While there is no 100% way to prevent this birth defect women can reduce their risk by eating a diet rich in Folic Acid (whether or not they plan on getting pregnant) and avoiding high temperatures if they suspect they are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. If you suspect you are in one of the high risk groups or have a history of Spina Bifida in your family you should consult your physician prior to getting pregnant.

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6.) How common is Spina Bifidia?

It occurs in approximately 7 out of every 10,000 births in the United States and is not considered uncommon.

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7.) Is there a cure?

No. However, thanks to advances in the medical field there are many effective treatments for the different symptoms and difficulties Spina Bifida patients have. If you or someone you love has this diagnosis talk to your doctor about what treatment options are available.

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