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Spina Bifida

Complications Associated With Spina Bifida

Different parts of the spinal cord are responsible for different functions, the location of the defect in spina bifida dictates the type of dysfunction experienced by the individual affected. Most patients with any form of spina bifida have some degree of weakness in the legs. This can be severe and may involve some degree of paralysis, depending on the condition of the spinal cord.

Spinal cord functioning is necessary for proper emptying of both the bladder and the bowels. These systems are greatly compromised in people with spina bifida. Difficulty in completely emptying the bladder can result in severe, repeated infections, ultimately causing kidney damage, which can be life-threatening.

There are many associated defects that accompany spina bifida. Arnold-Chiari malformations are changes in the architecture and arrangement of brain structures, and can contribute to the occurrence of hydrocephalus (commonly referred to as water on the brain) in people with spina bifida. Hydrocephalus is a condition in which too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF—the fluid which bathes the brain and spinal cord) is produced, or the flow of CSF is blocked, resulting in an abnormal accumulation of CSF. If the CSF accumulates, it may put pressure on parts of the brain and cause damage.

Many children with spina bifida have other orthopedic complications, including clubfeet and hip dislocations, as well as abnormal curves and bends in their spinal curvature, which can result in a hunchbacked or twisted appearance (kyphosis or scoliosis, respectively).

Children with spina bifida may experience learning problems, depending on the severity of the defect, as well as the presence of other associated defects. These include attention deficits, understanding how to listen and talk, as well as verbal and mathematical learning problems. Some children have normal intelligence, while others have some degree of developmental delay. Extreme intellectual deficits may occur in children with very severe spinal defects with associated Arnold-Chiari malformations and hydrocephalus, as well as in children who have contract meningitis.

Interestingly enough, it has recently been shown that children with spina bifida have a greatly increased risk of allergic sensitivity to latex. Catheters, elastic bands, nipples from baby bottles, balloons, and pacifiers all usually contain latex. This allergy may cause minor skin rashes, but can cause more major life-threatening reaction. This latex sensitivity is an important issue for these children, who need more than normal medical services.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Spectroscopy to Stoma (pl. stomata)Spina Bifida - Clinical Manifestations, Complications Associated With Spina Bifida, Treatment, Prevention - Diagnosis