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Spina bifida: types and symptoms

Spina bifida is a birth defect where the spine does not grow around the nerves of the spinal column, leaving the nerves vulnerable to injury. Expectant mothers in Texas should know that they can reduce the risk for spina bifida by as much as 70 percent by taking folic acid supplements. Doctors can screen for the condition as early as 21 weeks into a pregnancy.

There are three types of spina bifida, the most common being spina bifida occulta. This affects one or more vertebrae without any apparent damage to the spinal cord. Around 40 percent of those who develop it do not know that they have it although it can be detected via ultrasounds, MRIs and other medical imaging tests.

Meningocele is a second type, and this refers to the protrusion of the meninges, which is the covering around the spinal cord. The third and most serious is myelomeningocele where parts of the spinal column come through the back, sometimes in the form of flesh-covered sacs. It often goes hand in hand with hydrocephalus, which is the enlarging of the baby's head due to an excess of cerebrospinal fluid.

Symptoms could include dimples, birthmarks and a hairy patch above the affected area. More severe symptoms include exposed nerves, paralysis or weakness in the affected limbs. Children with spina bifida may develop orthopedic problems and cognitive disabilities.

Doctors who detect spina bifida can do nothing except monitor it. This helps prepare parents and medical staff for treating the condition. Negligence, though, may lead to a worsening of the condition. Those who believe their child's birth condition could have been prevented or mitigated may want to speak to a lawyer who works in medical malpractice. The lawyer might hire investigators to build up the case, and the lawyer may strive for a settlement covering medical expenses and other losses.

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