Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that results in the spinal cord not being covered by the bones of the vertebral column. Patients who have this defect suffer from various symptoms. The defect also has a negative effect on intellectual development and physical development. The defect is congenital which means that it starts during gestation. Spina bifida presents one of four types, each with varying severity. Not all types have noticeable symptoms, but testing can confirm the defect in every instance.
The four types of spina bifida are; occulta, meningocele, closed neural tube defects and myelomeningocele. Not every type of spina bifida has neurological symptoms. In mild cases, a person may live their whole life without knowing they have the defect.
As the severity and type of spina bifida worsen, the symptoms become more pronounced, the worst being complete paralysis. The eight most common symptoms of spina bifida are further explained below.
1. Cerebrospinal fluid buildup
The watery fluid that inhibits the brain cavity is called cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid is essential for the brain and nervous system to function effectively. This fluid can be found along the spinal cord, in the brain and around the surface of the brain. The brain generates a much as a pint of cerebrospinal fluid each day that’s used to feed the brain, protect the nervous system and clear away waste.
Anytime there is a buildup of too much cerebrospinal fluid it can lead to hydrocephalus which will result in damage to the brain if left untreated. This fluid is usually absorbed by blood cells, but that process is interrupted in Spina bifida patients.
Hydrocephalus can also lead to increased difficulty in learning. Hydrocephalus puts an increasing amount of pressure on the brain which will affect learning, coordination, and even auto reflexes over time. Hydrocephalus eventually causes permanent brain damage if he buildup of fluid is not stemmed or relieved.