What is Spina Bifida?

Spina bifida is a condition that affects the spine and is usually apparent at birth. It is a type of neural tube defect (NTD). Spina bifida can happen anywhere along the spine if the neural tube does not close all the way. When the neural tube doesn’t close all the way, the backbone that protects the spinal cord doesn’t form and close as it should. This often results in damage to the spinal cord and nerves.

Spina bifida might cause physical and intellectual disabilities that range from mild to severe. The severity depends on:

  • The size and location of the opening in the spine.
  • Whether part of the spinal cord and nerves are affected. 

Spina Bifida

The three most common types of spina bifida are:

Myelomeningocele (sounds like: my-low-ma-nin-jo-seal)
When people talk about spina bifida, most often they are referring to myelomeningocele. Myelomeningocele is the most serious type of spina bifida. With this condition, a sac of fluid comes through an opening in the baby’s back. Part of the spinal cord and nerves are in this sac and are damaged. This type of spina bifida causes moderate to severe disabilities, such as problems affecting how the person goes to the bathroom, loss of feeling in the person’s legs or feet, and not being able to move the legs.

Meningocele (sounds like: ma-nin-jo-seal)
Another type of spina bifida is meningocele. With meningocele a sac of fluid comes through an opening in the baby’s back. But the spinal cord is not in this sac. There is usually little or no nerve damage. This type of spina bifida can cause minor disabilities.

Spina Bifida Occulta (sounds like: o-cult-tuh)
Spina bifida occulta is the mildest type of spina bifida. It is sometimes called “hidden” spina bifida. With it, there is a small gap in the spine, but no opening or sac on the back. The spinal cord and the nerves usually are normal. Many times, spina bifida occulta is not discovered until late childhood or adulthood. This type of spina bifida usually does not cause any disabilities.

Diagnosis

Spina bifida can be diagnosed during pregnancy or after the baby is born. Spina bifida occulta might not be diagnosed until late childhood or adulthood, or might never be diagnosed.

Full article: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/spinabifida/facts.html