About SB + H
Spina bifida is a neural tube birth defect (NTD) that occurs within the first four weeks of pregnancy. The spinal column fails to develop properly resulting in varying degrees of permanent damage to the spinal cord and nervous system. Infants born with spina bifida may have an open lesion on their spine where significant damage to the nerves and spinal cord occurs. Although the spinal opening is surgically repaired shortly after birth, the nerve damage is permanent – leading to partial or total paralysis of the lower limbs, depending largely on the location and severity of the lesion. Even with no visible lesion, there may be improperly formed or missing vertebrae, and accompanying nerve damage. Eighty percent of individuals with spina bifida also have hydrocephalus.
The three most common types of spina bifida:
The most severe form in which the spinal cord and its protective covering, the meninges, protrude from the opening in the spine.
The spinal cord develops normally but only the meninges protrude from the opening created by damaged or missing vertebrae and may be exposed.
Occulta is the mildest form, which means “hidden”, indicates that the defect, where one or more vertebrae are malformed, is covered by a layer of skin.
What Causes Spina Bifida?
There is no single known cause of spina bifida. Researchers are studying the effects of heredity, nutrition, environment and pollution, which physically damage the fetus.
How is Spina Bifida Treated?
There is no cure for spina bifida or hydrocephalus. Treatment often involves surgery, therapy and can also include medication. Many people with spina bifida benefit from mobility supports such as braces, crutches, or wheelchairs. Almost all will have some sort of bladder or bowel dysfunction.
Scientific research has proved that folic acid supplements taken by a woman for a period of time before conception and through her pregnancy can reduce the incidence of spina bifida and other NTDs in the fetus by as much as 70%. Health Canada recommends that all women of child bearing age eat folate-rich foods every day and take a daily multivitamin which contains 0.4mg of folic acid. Women with a family history of neural tube defects are at increased risk and should consult their physician to determine the amount of folic acid they should be taking. Visit www.folicacid.ca for more information.
What is Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus is the excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain. It may be present at birth of may develop later in life. The high fluid pressures on the brain can result in lasting effects. These may include impaired vision, hearing, mobility and coordination along with seizures, headaches, hormonal imbalance, and learning disabilities.
How is Hydrocephalus Treated?
Hydrocephalus can be surgically managed with a shunt (tube) to redirect the CSF into the abdomen where the fluid is released. With treatment, intelligence and lifespan are similar to those of the general population.
However, most people with hydrocephalus will have some form of learning disabilities.
Latex Allergy Alert
Studies have shown that up to 73% of individuals with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus are allergic to natural latex, the sap of the rubber tree. Sensitivity to latex can happen at any time.