To begin with, Spina Bifida can be defined as a type of birth defect that involves a partial growth of the spinal cord or the coverings. The term Spina Bifida has a Latin origin that has a literal meaning of a split or an open spine. It has been noted from research that it has its occurrence especially at the end of the first month of pregnancy. At this time, the two sides of the embryo’s spine may fail to join together resulting to an open area. The opening in this case may allow for the spinal cord or the meninges to obtrude. In cases whereby the defect cannot be seen or rather its invisible, the condition is given the term bifida occulta. Following this point, if the situation is presented with an external protrusion of the saclike structure is termed as spina bifida cystica (Sandler, 2004).
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Accordingly, there may be the involvement of neural infection which may translate into conditions like meningocele, meningomyelocele or myelomangocele. This classification is based on the severity. The latter type is the most common and a very serious case. It is realized when the unfused portion or rather the open area allows the spinal cord to project through an opening. In connection with this, the meningeal membranes happen to form a saclike structure that encloses the spinal elements as a result (Watson, 2008). The root cause of this kind of defect is not quiet established but it is usually treated with an immediate effect if detected. This is done by means of operation in order to close the opening and during this process, the spinal cords along with its nerve roots are put back in the spine and then covering done with meninges. As such, it is the overview of what Spina Bifida entails. From this point, it is therefore important to bring into view the causes, symptoms and treatment as well as prevention of Spina Bifida. This is made possible by use of books as source of information just as it will be highlighted in the references.
Following this point, in the United States, for every 1,000 newborns, one is likely to have a Spina Bifida defect (Sandler, 2004, p.1). It has been postulated that the main or rather the root cause of this defect is not well known or established in this context. So to speak, it becomes so hard to employ effective methods of preventing it and thus treatment of the same becomes hard especially for the severe cases when the brain is affected. In accordance to this, there has however been the information that scientists have provided regarding the probable cause of this defect. In actuality, it has been put forward that the probable associated causes may have genetic, nutritional and environmental factors playing a role. Research findings have put it forward that an insufficient intake of folic acid which in other words is termed as folate, a common B vitamin in the diet of the mother can play a role in enhancing the defect and causing other neural tube defects (Fraser, 2007).
Consequently, pregnant mothers are administered with prenatal vitamins that are rich in folic acid. Since the main cause of Spina Bifida has not yet been established, there are a few risk factors that have been pointed out. By definition, a risk factor can be termed as whatever thing that increases the chances of a person or individual to develop a condition. In actual fact, the risk factors may not be the causes but they rather increase the chances of the occurrence of the condition. For instance, the age of the pregnant mother should be considered as the condition is more pronounced among teenage mothers. Again, the history of miscarriage may act as a risk factor. In the same line of thought, the order of birth is associated with the defect as the first infants are commonly at a higher risk of having the Spina Bifida birth defect (Sandler, 2004).Moreover, socioeconomic status of an individual may play a role in increasing the chances of this defect due to poor nutrition as well as the necessary vitamins and minerals.
In combination to what has been said in regard to causes of Spina Bifida, there are signs and symptoms that can be associated with this malformation. Of the symptoms and signs of Spina Bifida, there has been a marked variance from individual to individual. The symptoms and signs essentially depend on the type of Spina Bifida. For those that have oculta as earlier on highlighted, outward signs of the disorder may not appear (Watson, 2008). However, those that have closed neural tube defects have an abnormal tuft or mass of hair or a small indentation on the skin where the spinal warp is located. For meningocele and myelomeningocele, there is always saclike structure filled with fluid visible enough as it protrudes from the spinal cord (Watson, 2008).
Having pointed on both symptoms and signs of Spina Bifida, there is the underlying aspect of the complications that come into being due to this. They range from the inconsequential physical and mental disabilities to severe ones. The kind of severity mentioned here comes into being following the size of the defect and the location as well. For nerves whose location is below the nerve, they inevitably get the effect and the more the infection, the more the damage and loss of the functioning of the muscle and sensation is realized.
At the same time, meningitis may be realized in cases where children suffer from the harsh type of Spina Bifida. Besides this, the children who happen to suffer from the severe type of Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus tend to develop difficulty in listening attentively, learning disabilities, both language and reading comprehension and the eventual difficulties in learning mathematics. As such children grow older; they may develop more snags such as skin troubles, latex allergies, depression and gastrointestinal conditions.
The diagnosis of the Spina Bifida defect takes place by means of screening methods during pregnancy especially in the second trimester. The maternal serum alpha fetoprotein and fetal ultrasound is used. If alpha fetoprotein is found in high levels in the maternal serum, it may therefore be an indication of Spina Bifida (Watson, 2008). Amniotic fluid may also reveal Spina Bifida if the same is found in high levels. Nonetheless, the latter may not divulge the severity.
The cure for this birth defect has not yet been found since the affected nerve tissues have neither repair, nor replacement and no task that can be reinstated either. Treatment in such a case largely depends on the type and the severity of the defect. As a result of this, for severe conditions of the condition, the treatment is done to prevent further infection of the exposed tissues of the defect that is on the spine and make prevention of the same from exposure to more traumas. Since there is no cure for the Spina Bifida defect, prevention would be better. Although it remains to be a mystery of the causes of the defect, prevention can be applied on the basis of the risk factors. This is to suggest that intake of folic acid for pregnant mothers inclusive of diets rich in it, would reduce the chances of the development of the condition (Fraser, 2007, p.800).
In view of the fact that children who suffer from this birth defect have a normal level of intelligence, some may be able to walk while others may be forced to use devices that can help them to walk. Others who might have developed mental disabilities may require that special education services and rehabilitative services be made a proviso of (Bannister & Tew, 1991). Irrespective of the difficulties that the researchers have been put into in researching on the Spina Bifida, its causes, prevention and prevention, research still continues. Therefore, it is highly recommended that more research be done in order to establish the causes, provide prevention measures and more so the curative processes.