What Is Spina Bifida

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There are 70,000 Americans that live with spina bifida but what is it, what are its affects, and how do you deal with it? First, we need to understand what spina bifida is before we can understand the effects that it causes. Spina bifida means a cleft spine, which is an incomplete closure in the spinal column. There are three types of spina bifida and ranges from mild to severe depending on which type you have. Those three types are: 1. Spina Bifida Occulta which is an opening in one or more of the vertebrae (bones) of the spinal column without apparent damage to the spinal cord. 2.Meningocele that is meninges, or in laymen's terms, a protective covering around the spinal cord, has pushed out through the opening in the vertebrae in a sac called the "meningocele. With this type, the spinal cord remains intact. This form can be repaired with little or no damage to the nerves. 3.Myelomeningocele being the most severe form of spina bifida, in which a portion of the spinal cord itself protrudes through the back. In some cases, sacs are covered with skin; in others, tissue and nerves are exposed.
Spina bifida happens in the embryo where there is a tiny ribbon of tissue that folds inward to form a tube. This structure, called the neural tube (NTD), forms by the 28th day after conception. When this process goes awry and the neural tube does not close completely, defects in the spinal cord and in the vertebrae can result.

Spina bifida usually is an isolated birth defect. Although scientists believe that genetic and environmental factors may act together to cause this and other NTDs, 95 percent of babies with spina bifida and other NTDs are born to parents with no family history of these disorders. While spina bifida appears to run in certain families, it does not follow any particular pattern of inheritance. If one child has spina bifida, the risk of recurrence in any subsequent pregnancy is greatly increased, to about one in 40. If there are two...
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