Symptoms of Spina Bifida
The symptoms of spina bifida will vary, depending on the type of spina bifida a patient has. For example, in most cases, individuals with spina bifida occulta have no outward symptoms. Meningocele and myelomeningocele generally involve a fluid-filled sac protruding from the spinal cord. Spina bifida symptoms can also include urinary and bowel dysfunction.
Affecting 1,500 to 2,000 of the more than four million babies born each year, spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect in the United States. There are a few different types of spina bifida, including:
The symptoms of this condition vary from person to person, depending on the type of spina bifida the person has (see Types of Spina Bifida).
Symptoms of Spina Bifida Occulta
In most cases, individuals with spina bifida occulta have no outward symptoms.
Closed neural tube defects are often recognized early in life due to an abnormal tuft, clump of hair, a small dimple, or birthmark on the skin at the site of the spinal malformation. While some patients with neural tube defects will have few or no spina bifida symptoms, other patients will have incomplete paralysis with urinary and bowel dysfunction.
Meningocele and myelomeningocele generally involve a fluid-filled sac that is visible on the back, protruding from the spinal cord. In meningocele, a thin layer of skin may cover the sac; in myelomeningocele, there is no layer of skin covering the sac, and a section of spinal cord tissue usually is exposed.
Some patients with meningocele may have few or no symptoms of spina bifida, while others may experience symptoms similar to those of closed neural tube defects. Myelomeningocele is the most severe type of spina bifida -- it can result in partial or complete paralysis of the parts of the body below the spinal opening. The paralysis may be so severe that the affected individual is unable to walk and may have urinary and bowel dysfunction.