Spina bifida is a birth defect caused when the spinal column does not close completely. It can lead to physical and intellectual disabilities, as well as a variety of other medical issues.
What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs due to incomplete closure of the spinal cord during fetal development. It is one of the most common disabling birth defects in the United States, often characterized by an abnormality of the spinal column and neural tube. Spina bifida results in varying degrees of physical and mental impairment, depending on its severity. The most severe form can cause paralysis, deformity of the body, urinary and bowel dysfunction, hydrocephalus (accumulation of fluid in the brain) and sensory loss.
The debate surrounding spina bifida’s classification as a disability centers on whether or not its effects should be treated as a disability. Proponents of treating spina bifida as a disability point to its detrimental effects on quality of life and its life-long impact on individuals with the condition. Opponents argue that considering spina bifida a disability impedes individuals from working towards their full potential, perpetuating unequal treatment and negative stigmas for those living with its effects.
Regardless of how it is classified, spina bifida requires diagnosis and appropriate medical care to reduce symptoms and ensure quality of life for people affected by it. In the next section we will discuss diagnosis and tests for spina bifida, to better understand how it is identified and managed.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), spina bifida affects 1 out of every 2,858 births in the United States.
- A 2011 study found that the incidence of spina bifida has decreased by 48% between the years 1991-2005 due to mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid and other interventions.
- Studies conducted in Europe have found that spina bifida is more prevalent among individuals with European ancestry, particularly among Italian and Maltese populations.
Diagnosis and Tests for Spina Bifida
When it comes to diagnosing spina bifida, a variety of tests must be used in order to help make an accurate diagnosis. Often times, healthcare professionals will turn to ultrasounds, MRI scans, as well as other imaging tests. In some instances, genetic testing might also become necessary.
Ultrasounds are typically the first step for diagnosing spina bifida. During the ultrasound, the physician will be looking for sacs near the spinal cord that indicate an abnormality. Additionally, they will look for any signs of fluid buildup around the spinal cord that may point to issues with potential neural tube defects. Ultrasounds are relatively non-invasive tests and they provide doctors with a wealth of important information regarding potential spina bifida complications in the fetus.
If any abnormalities are found or suspected via ultrasound, then an MRI scan may be recommended next. This type of imaging scan is much more detailed than an ultrasound and can enable doctors to get even more specific information regarding potential spina bifida in the fetus.
In some cases, genetic tests (such as amniocentesis) and various molecular diagnostic tests can be used in order to further confirm an initial diagnosis made from one of these other tests such as those listed above. However, these types of tests should only be used when an ultrasound or MRI does not yield conclusive results. Since these types of tests come with certain risks that must be considered carefully before administering them, doctors typically prefer to move towards more invasive forms of testing somewhat cautiously and only after non-invasive attempts have been made first.
Overall, diagnosis and testing for spina bifida can be conducted in a variety of ways depending on how far along a pregnancy is and what risk factors may exist with regards to the fetus’ development. By utilizing ultrasounds and MRI scans – and potentially other forms of genetic testing such as amniocentesis – doctors are able to make informed decisions about the best way to move forward when possible spina bifida is detected or suspected during pregnancy.
Finally, blood tests may also provide additional useful information related to spina bifida diagnosis if deemed helpful by a physician or medical team treating a patient suspected or confirmed to have the condition. The coming section will further discuss the significance of specific blood tests in informing potential diagnoses related to this condition as well as its potential long-term implications.
Next , we will take a closer look at how blood tests play a role in understanding and diagnosing spina bifida.
Blood tests can be an important part of diagnosing spina bifida. It is recommended that pregnant mothers receive a test called the “quad screen” between the fifteenth and twentieth weeks of pregnancy to assess their baby’s risk of having spina bifida. During this test, four substances present in maternal blood are measured and supplemented by medical history, such as family history and other birth defects. The substances tested for are alpha-fetoprotein, unconjugated estriol, human chorionic gonadotropin, and inhibin A. The initial results of the quad screen often follow up with further testing after birth to accurately diagnose spina bifida.
The use of antenatal screening tests has been considered both beneficial and potentially harmful by parents and medical professionals alike. On the positive side, it informs parents if their child may have spina bifida allowing them to seek further diagnosis and information on treatment options. On the other hand, while there are no known treatments in utero, some experts worry that the risk of obtaining an incorrect result can cause unnecessary worry or stress during pregnancy which itself can cause harm to the mother and fetus.
Due to these arguments for both sides of the debate around blood tests for prenatal screening for spina bifida diagnoses, consulting with a medical professional knowledgeable in this field is best to help each family make an informed decision on whether or not they should pursue this testing route.
Moving forward from blood tests, other diagnostic tests can also be used to assess for spina bifida during pregnancy or soon after birth.
Other Diagnostic Tests
Other Diagnostic Tests may also be used in addition to a physical exam when determining if an individual is living with Spina Bifida. Commonly, imaging tests like an Ultrasound are utilized to confirm the assumptions made from the physical exam. An Ultrasound will provide doctors with a look at the structure of the spine, as well as any cysts or lesions associated with Spina Bifida which can help determine a proper diagnosis if one has not yet been confirmed.
Some individuals may also agree to a Prenatal Screening and Diagnostic Test to determine if there is a possibility that a child will have Spina Bifida. Those who choose this option should know that these types of tests are not always accurate and there may still be a possibility of the individual having Spina Bifida despite negative test results. While still recommended by many medical professionals, it is ultimately up to the parents whether or not they choose to undergo such prenatal screenings or diagnostic testing.
Finally, amniocentesis is also an option for pregnant mothers wanting to discern whether or not their unborn baby could possibly have Spina Bifida. The amniotic fluid taken from this test is analyzed for any potential harmful compounds like Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) which have been linked with the malformations in the spinal cord associated with Spina Bifida. However, just like Prenatal Screening and Diagnostic Tests, positive results do not guarantee that a child will definitely have Spina Bifida, while negative results do not necessarily mean they will never develop it.
Given all this information, it is understandable that many families might be unsure how to proceed when attempting to diagnose and treat those who possibly have Spina Bifida. This can make it difficult for individuals and their families alike – as no definitive answer regarding diagnosis can be assured. With this in mind, it is important for patients to work closely with medical professionals in order to determine what tests will best suit their specific situation and needs.
The next section will discuss in detail the Symptoms and Complications of Spina Bifida – which may differ depending on the type, location, and severity of the disability.
Symptoms and Complications of Spina Bifida
Understanding the symptoms, complications, and treatments related to Spina Bifida is an essential part of grasping its overall impact on individuals. Symptoms associated with Spina Bifida can vary depending on the severity and location of the neural tube defect, but commonly include low muscle tone, difficulty with balance and coordination, bowel and bladder incontinence, hydrocephalus (a buildup of fluid in the brain), skeletal deformations, weakened muscle strength, leg paralysis or numbness, reduced sensation in the skin, learning disabilities and more.
Complications vary both in type and severity. Common complications range from urinary tract infections to scoliosis to clubfoot deformity to meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain). In terms of severity, medical professionals often consider these complications as mild to moderate in some cases or may require surgery or long-term care in more severe circumstances.
Though there is no direct cure for Spina Bifida, there are ways to reduce risk factors and treatment options available to help relieve symptoms. Treatment options include medications that control seizures or inflammation around nerves as well as surgery to reduce fluid buildup or correct bone deformities that are caused by this disorder. It’s important to note that due to the complexity of Spina Bifida, it may require a multidisciplinary approach when treating individual cases – involving doctors from a variety of specialties.
In conclusion, Spina Bifida presents an array of physical usually permanent symptoms and potential complications that can vary significantly amongst those impacted by it. Though it is an incurable birth defect, there are ways to reduce risk factors as well as treatments available aimed at managing or relieving symptoms. Moving forward we will explore how causes of this disorder can be identified and monitored moving forward along with treatments aimed at making day-to-day life easier for those living with it. The following section will focus on “Causes and Treatment of Spina Bifida”.
Causes and Treatment of Spina Bifida
There is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the causes and treatment of Spina Bifida. The condition, which is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States, usually arises from a problem during fetal development. It can range from mild to very severe physical impairment, affecting walking and motor function, as well as bladder and bowel control. While there is no clear cause for why this happens, some studies have pointed to low folic acid levels in the mother’s body at the time of conception, or any exposure to toxic substances such as alcohol, drugs, or certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs before or during pregnancy.
Treatment varies depending on how severely affected someone is by their Spina Bifida. In general, therapies are used to improve quality of life and manage any symptoms that arise from the condition. This can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, braces and orthopedic devices, medication management and neurosurgery to repair structural damage in the spine and reduce damage caused by other issues related to Spina Bifida such as hydrocephalus. Some argue that surgery should be performed as soon after birth as possible to minimize long-term effects; however no definite agreement between doctors has been reached on this subject as it can differ from case to case.
While intervention can help those with Spina Bifida live more comfortably and manage its effects better, there is still no cure for this condition. As a result, many debate whether it should be classified as a disability – particularly due to limitations in terms of mobility – while others argue that it is not necessarily disabling in all cases.
The next section delves further into the impact Spina Bifida has on people, as well as its eligibility requirements for specific government services and support programs.
Impact of Spina Bifida on People
The impact of spina bifida on people can be varied, depending on the severity and type of the condition. People who suffer from spina bifida can face challenges throughout their lifetime due to physical disabilities, including paralysis, scoliosis and bladder problems. Disabilities such as these can range in degree of severity so that some people may need constant medical care while others are able to live relatively independent lives. Regardless of the degree of disability, however, those with spina bifida are likely to have a lower quality of life or need more medical assistance than someone without a disability.
There is much debate about how individuals with spina bifida should be treated. Some argue that people with this condition should be handled with special care and given more leniency when it comes to things like employment or educational opportunities. On the other hand, there also exists a belief that treating individuals with spina bifida differently than we would treat any other person is unfair and reinforces the idea that those with disabilities are not capable or contribute less value than those without disabilities. This debate brings up many important points that need to considered when thinking about how best to support people living with this condition.
No matter the outcome of this debate, however, it’s clear that spina bifida has an impact on individuals that goes far beyond physical disabilities. Issues such as discrimination, lack of access to services, social isolation and mental health concerns also arise for people with spina bifida and often contribute to a lower quality life even if physical disabilities are minimized.
The physical disabilities associated with spina bifida present unique challenges for those affected by it and play an integral role in determining eligibility for programs and services. The next section will explore in more detail what those impacts are and how physical disability influences one’s eligibility for assistance programs.
Physical disabilities present complex challenges and barriers for those suffering from them. Spina bifida is among the many physical disabilities that can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, ability to work, and other aspects of daily life. Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spine and can cause difficulties with walking, bladder or bowel control, and other bodily functions that can be impaired. People with spina bifida may be eligible to receive disability benefits depending on the severity and complexity of the disability.
On one hand, those who argue against eligibility requirements for spina bifida contend that not all cases may meet the medical criteria set forth by Social Security Administration (SSA) guidelines or require assistance. They might suggest that mild cases do not always need full-time medical care, adaptive equipment or assistive devices, or costly medical treatments. Furthermore, it is argued that some individuals with this disability could still maintain meaningful occupations despite their physical condition. On the other hand, there is no denying the hindrances such an impairment can put upon someone’s daily life. It is difficult to predict the progression of symptoms in any given person; thus each situation should be assessed individually to determine its functional limitations. Setbacks related to mobility and energy efficiency would likely prevent persons with spina bifida from contributing to the workforce full-time regardless of their eagerness or willingness to work.
The conversation about spina bifida as an eligible disability must also consider an individual’s lifestyle implications – both positive and negative – based on advancement of modern treatments and technology. An analysis of an individual’s physical needs relative to necessary adaptations must be weighed carefully when determining whether they qualify for disability benefits. Moving forward into the next section we will explore mental disabilities in addition to physical disabilities when assessing eligibility requirements for those living with spina bifida.
Mental disabilities are a category of disability that can have significant impact on a person’s quality of life. This is particularly true for individuals living with Spina Bifida since the condition affects multiple aspects of the individual’s life, including their cognitive abilities. In the case of Spina Bifida, mental disabilities can manifest in a variety of ways, such as learning disabilities, problems in concentration and paying attention, social communication impairments, and even developmental delays. With this in mind, it is important to understand the impact that mental disabilities associated with Spina Bifida can have on a person’s eligibility for certain types of programs and services related to the condition.
There is great debate over how to define mental disability and the consequences this has for legal recognition and access to services. For instance, some argue that mental disability should be defined in terms of functioning level, or lack thereof, or disability type in which impacted individuals are not sufficiently independent for full integration into society. Others contend that mental disability should focus on medical diagnosis that demonstrate neurological impairment resulting from physical deficits like those associated with the birth defect of Spina Bifida.
Regardless of which position one takes, it is critical to note that people living with Spina Bifida often experience significant mental health issues as a result of their condition. Therefore, it is necessary to consider how access to appropriate services and support can help alleviate these symptoms and allow those with Spina Bifida to live their best lives possible.
In light of this debate about mental disabilities associated with Spina Bifida, it is important to investigate what services are available for those affected by the condition and what eligibility requirements may be necessary in order to access them. The following section will take a look at accessing services for people affected by Spina Bifida and provide an understanding of what options may be available.
Access to Services for Spina Bifida
People with Spina Bifida (SB) have various options available to support their unique needs. Depending on the situation and location, different organizations may offer assistance with access to services, such as school-based programs, therapeutic approaches, and other resources. However, there is debate about which organizations are best equipped to provide these services.
On one hand, some believe that public health care mechanisms should take a lead role in providing assistance for SB individuals. This would include advocating for inclusion within the public health system and making sure that individuals receive necessary services and supports from existing government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
Supporters of this approach argue that as a public resource, healthcare should be provided for all citizens regardless of ability or special need. They also point out that people living with SB significantly benefit from being part of public health care systems by having access to doctors who can specialize in the management of SB complications. These advocates insist that governmental resources should be used so that those with SB do not have to rely on private or charity care alone.
On the other hand, some believe that specialized organizations dedicated solely to assisting SB individuals create an important niche in providing access to services and resources. Private charities, social service agencies, disability advocacy groups, and educated professionals who specialize in this field may provide more comprehensive care than general healthcare practitioners. Proponents of this approach emphasize the importance of understanding SB specific needs and offering direct services tailored specifically to them. Additionally, they suggest that organizations dedicated to assisting SB individuals can increase awareness around SB issues, lifestyle adaptations, and potential treatments or therapies that would otherwise not be accessible from general healthcare providers or government resources.
As there is significant debate surrounding which organizations are best suited for providing access to services for SB individuals, it is important for families affected by SB to weigh their options carefully when selecting their individual supports and treatment plans. Ultimately, finding an organization that pays close attention to the individual’s particular disability can make a tremendous difference in ensuring that he or she receives the proper support and services needed for leading a successful life.
Common Questions and Answers
What types of treatments are available for people with spina bifida?
The treatment options for people with spina bifida depend on the severity of their condition, but the most common treatments include surgery, physical therapy, medications, and assistive technology. Surgery can help to close openings in the spine and reduce some symptoms such as impaired mobility or bladder and bowel control. Physical therapy can help improve muscle tone and range of motion, while medications can address any issues caused by nerve damage. Assistive technology like wheelchairs or walkers can also help improve mobility. Additionally, there are support services available to help individuals with spina bifida learn how to cope with their disability and maximize their independence.
How does spina bifida impact a person’s daily life?
Spina bifida can have a significant impact on a person’s daily life, depending on the severity of their condition. The effects of spina bifida vary from mild to severe, but in general, people with spina bifida may experience physical impairments such as difficulty walking, limited use of their arms and legs, and decreased sensation in the limbs. They also may have intellectual disabilities that limit academic opportunity or require ongoing assistance.
Mobility difficulties are common for those with spina bifida and may require the use of assistive devices such as wheelchairs or walkers to get around. Other people may be able to walk but do so with considerable pain, fatigue, and limited range of motion due to physical limitations caused by spina bifida. People with spina bifida are often at risk for developing skin breakdown due to limited mobility and lack of sensation in certain areas of the body.
In addition to mobility impairments, many people with spina bifida will have developmental delays or learning disabilities that may impact things like speech, cognition, memory or information processing. This can affect academic progress and social interaction. Speech therapy may be necessary to aid communication, while adaptive learning strategies and classroom accommodations can help improve academic success. Social skills training can also be beneficial for helping someone with spina bifida interact with their peers in important relationships during childhood and beyond.
Ultimately, spina bifida can affect every part of a person’s daily life and will necessitate careful management of the physical, developmental and emotional impacts for someone throughout their life journey.
What medical conditions are associated with spina bifida?
Spina bifida is a birth defect caused by the incomplete development of the spine in the womb which can affect a person’s mobility, bladder and bowel control, and even their ability to walk. Associated medical conditions may include hydrocephalus, limb deformity, kyphosis, scoliosis, and paralysis.
Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an imbalance between the production and absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leading to an accumulation of fluid around the brain. It can cause headaches, an increase in head size, vomiting, sleepiness, irritability and seizures.
Limb deformity can occur if the spine does not develop properly in the womb. This may lead to a shortening or absence of one or both legs or arms or curvature at different points in the limbs. It can also affect dexterity, strength and overall functionality of movement for individuals with spina bifida.
Kyphosis is an extreme curvature of the spine that causes a hump on the back of an individual with spina bifida. It usually affects balance, posture and gait as well as causing pain due to pinched nerves in the spinal area.
Scoliosis is an irregular curve in the spine which affects how a person stands, sits and walks due to pressure being put on other parts of the body. It may result in chronic low backache and difficulty with balance control.
Paralysis is common in individuals with spina bifida due to damage to nerve pathways during development. This may include sensation loss known as paresthesia, partial paralysis known as hemiplegia or full paralysis known as quadriplegia depending on where along the spine the nerve disruption occurred.