June 14, 2014
St. Philip’s College
When the spine has not completely developed in the womb, it is referred to as spina bifida (split spine). There are two types of spina bifida: spina bifida occulta and spina bifida cystica. Spina bifida occurs during “the end of the first month of pregnancy when the two sides of the embryo’s spine fails to join together, leaving an open area”; this is a neural tube defect (Kids Health). This is usually noticed before the birth the baby and is treated right away. No one knows the true cause of this condition. Scientists believe that genetics and environmental factors could play a role. It is considered the most common birth defect in the United States.
Spina bifida occulta, also known as hidden spina bifida, is the milder version of spina bifida; a layer of skin covers the defect. This form does not cause any visible signs or health problems and can go undetected. Ten to twenty percent of healthy people have it and don’t realize it. It’s usually discovered when a person gets an x-ray of their back for another reason, unrelated to this condition. A small percentage of people will have pain and neuromuscular problems. These symptoms could be “progressive disturbances of gait, such as footdrop, or disturbances of bowel and bladder sphincter function” (Leifer). There may also be a dimple or small patch of hair on the lower back.
Spina bifida cystica is classified as “a cystic mass in the midline of the opening in the spine” (Leifer). There are two variations of this defect: meningocele and meningomyelocele. Meningocele causes a portion of the spinal cord to push through the spine which forms a sac and is noticeable on the back. The sac is filled with nerve fluid but there is usually no nerve damage. In most cases, people live with few symptoms and sometimes none at all but in others it can cause “incomplete paralysis with bladder and bowel dysfunction” (NIH)....
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