What is Spina Bifida?

Spina Bifida, also known as the "snowflake condition",  is a neurological disability caused when a baby's spinal cord fails to develop properly. Living with Spina Bifida doesn't mean all of us undergo the same situations- medically or physically. Continue reading about Spina Bifida and how the condition varies in each person. 

Types of  Spina Bifida

Occulta is the mildest and most common form of Spina Bifida. When a patient is diagnosed with Spina Bifida occulta, it means one or more vertebrae are not properly formed.  Occulta, translated to "hidden", means that the opening in the spine is covered by a layer of skin. This form of Spina Bifida does not usually cause paralysis or symptoms of a physical difference. This is because the defect is hidden under the skin and the nerves are not involved. These types of defects may be noticed early in life if there is an abnormal tuft or clump of hair, or a small dimple or birthmark on the skin at the site where the spine did not properly form or rarely may cause symptoms as the child grows if the defect creates tension on the growing spinal cord.

Spina Bifida Meningocele is a specific condition when the meninges (proctective coverings around the spine) push out of the spinal opening which may or may not be covered by a layer of tissue and skin. This form of Spina Bifida can see partial paralysis within certain patients. 

Myelomeningocele is the most severe form of Spina Bifida, which occurs when the spinal cord shows through the opening of the spine, and is exposed resulting in partial to complete paralysis, especially in parts of the body below the spinal cord opening. The patient with this form of Spina Bifida may also have urinary and bowel dysfunction.

More Information About Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida in the most common defect of the neural tube in the United States. Hispanics and Whites of European descent are at a higher rate of being diagnosed with Spina Bifida compared to African-Americans, Asians and Ashkenazi Jews. Gender appears to play a role in the diagnosis, more female babies are born with Spina Bifida than males. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1,500 babies are born with Spina Bifida in the U.S. each year; which means, about one out of every 2,500 babies born in the U.S. each year will be affected with the neural tube defect. In most cases, Spina Bifida is diagnosed before the baby is born; which is also why abortion cases are commonly associated with the condition but today's technology ad. However, some mild cases may go unnoticed until after birth. Very mild cases, in which there are no symptoms, may never be detected.

Even though, since 1996, there has been a 24% decrease of babies born with the condition. Since then, researchers have analyzed that Folic Acid also known as Folate, a vitamin, can potentially help with the production of a healthy baby but it is not a fact nor cure for Spina Bifida. In fact, there are no cures for the physical disability of Spina Bifida due to the nerve tissue that has been damaged which can't be repaired or replaced, yet certain treatments can be effective.The type of treatment required depends on the type and severity of the disorder. Generally, children born with the mild form of Spina Bifida (Occulta) need no immediate treatment, although some may require monitoring for signs of spinal cord dysfunction and surgery, if it occurs. Infants born with Meningocele usually need surgical removal of the cyst that forms on the patient but go on to live with no or little impairment.  

There are many complications that those with Spina Bifida can experience that are based on the size and location of the malformation; whether or not skin covers it, whether or not spinal nerves are exposed as well as which spinal nerves are involved. Most commonly, all the nerves that are located below the malformation are affected, which means that the higher the malformation is on the child’s back, the greater the amount of nerve damage, loss of muscle function and sensation within the complete or lower body. That being said, Most individuals living with Spina Bifida are just as intelligent as any other student and have the ability to live a productive, successful life.