Spina bifida is a lifelong condition that affects thousands of people in the UK. While there is no exact figure for how many people are affected, estimates suggest it affects up to 1 in every 1,000 births in the UK. Learn more about this condition and discover ways to help those who live with spina bifida here.
How Many People in the UK are Affected by Spina Bifida?
It is estimated that 1 in every 1,000 babies born in the UK are affected by spina bifida, although this number varies across different areas. Studies have found that the rate of spina bifida is particularly high in Scotland, with estimates suggesting that around 2 out of every 1000 births are affected. The majority of those affected will live their lives with varying degrees of physical disability and need to access support services to manage the physical and emotional effects of their condition.
What Causes Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is caused by a development problem in the womb. The exact cause of the condition is not known, but a lack of folic acid has been linked to an increased risk. Folic acid is needed for normal cell and tissue growth, and low intakes can result in neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. It’s therefore recommended that women take a folic acid supplement when trying to conceive, to reduce the risk.
What Are the Symptoms of Spina Bifida?
The severity of the symptoms of spina bifida can vary. Commonly, individuals will have some level of physical disability. This can range from mild issues such as muscle weakness and stiffness to more severe disabilities with problems walking and using their hands. Treatment may include corrective surgery and lifelong treatment using mobility aids, orthopaedic appliances, braces and crutches as well as physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
How is Spina Bifida Diagnosed and Treated?
Spina bifida is usually diagnosed during pregnancy using an ultrasound scan. Following birth, further tests may be conducted to determine the severity of symptoms and detect any associated conditions such as hydrocephalus. Treatment may involve surgery to close the open vertebrae and help stabilize the spine, followed by ongoing care such as support with mobility aids, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medication management.
What Support is Available for People Living with Spina Bifida?
People living with spina bifida require lifelong care, and this includes a wide range of services and support both for them and their families. These can include physical and occupational therapy, educational guidance, health care, social support, employment advice and more. Family members are also often involved in the person’s care, to ensure that they have access to appropriate help throughout all stages of life.