The Four Types of Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect, also known as a birth defect, which affects the spinal cord and meninges (protective coating around the spinal cord and brain stem). During gestation, the fetus does not develop properly or there is an incomplete development of the brain or spinal cord, which leads to Spina Bifida. While some of the most severe cases become obvious right away due to physical ailments and other signs, most Spina Bifida cases are hard to diagnose and often go unnoticed.

The first type of Spina Bifida, Occulta, is also the mildest and the most common. Occulta is rarely found due to the lack of signs that lead to a possible diagnosis and treatment. Occulta is the result of one or more vertebrae becoming malformed and causing the opening of the spine to be covered by a layer of skin. It is not typically associated with any type of physical disability and is mild, therefore not a cause for concern among children born with this condition. Approximately 10 percent of all children born have Occulta, but usually do not realize it.

Closed Neural Tube Defect is the second type of Spina Bifida, and also a mild case of the condition. Individuals with Closed Neural Tube Defect will have a group of spinal defects or spinal cord malformation of the fat, bone, or membranes. Common symptoms of Closed Neural Tube Defects include a mild case of paralysis, urinary dysfunction and bowel dysfunction. The condition is slightly more common that the other types of Spina Bifida, aside from Occulta.

Meningocele is a type of Spina Bifida caused by spinal fluid and meninges protruding through a vertebrae opening in the spine. While slightly more serious than the previous two types of Spina Bifida, Meningocele is often has very little symptoms or none at all. As with Closed Neural Tube Defect, Meningocele may be accompanied by partial paralysis, urinary or bowel dysfunction, and possible numbness of the legs or feet. However, Meningocele may be diagnosed in-utero during a routine ultrasound if the doctor pays close attention to the formation of the babys vertebrae.

The fourth and most severe case of Spina Bifida is Myclomeningocele. This is the type of Spina Bifida that is most obvious due to its various physical affects on the individual. Myclomeningocele is a condition where the spinal cord and other neural elements become exposed through the opening in the spine, protruding through the persons skin. Common symptoms of Myclomeningocele include complete or partial paralysis, urinary or bowel dysfunction, numbness of the legs or feet, various sensory deficits, and physical disabilities such as being unable to stand or sit up straight, or walk. The most dangerous side effect of Myclomeningocele is the fact that the nerves and tissue may become exposed, therefore raising the risk of infection.

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