Spina bifida is one of the most common permanently disabling birth defects in the world, affecting thousands of children around the globe. While it can occur in any part of the world, there are certain regions where spina bifida is more prevalent – including parts of North America, Asia Pacific, and Europe.
Definition of Spina Bifida.
Spina bifida is a birth defect that impacts the proper development of the spinal cord and its protective covering. It can lead to a range of motor and sensory impairments, which can vary in severity depending on location and extent of the defect. Although there are treatments available, these physical signs will often remain with affected individuals over their lifetime.
Statistics on Spina Bifida Prevalence in the World.
Spina bifida prevalence varies greatly around the world. The highest rates are seen in Latin America, Asia and Africa with the lowest in North America and Europe. In the United States alone, it affects about 1 out of every 3,000 births. As an exact figure is difficult to determine due to limitations in reporting guidelines, estimates suggest that more than 250 million people worldwide are currently living with spina bifida.
Causes and Risk Factors for Spina Bifida.
The exact cause of spina bifida is not known and in most cases, it occurs without a known cause. However, certain factors appear to increase the risk of developing this condition. These include genetic predisposition, maternal exposure to environmental toxins and smoking during pregnancy, folic acid deficiency in the mother’s diet, lack of pre-pregnancy planning care, and maternal age (women over 35 are more likely to have a child with spina bifida).
Common Treatments for Spina Bifida Patients.
Treatments for spina bifida focus on reducing the severity of the disability, preventing long-term complications, and promoting quality of life. Treatment is tailored to the individual person and can include surgery, medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech or language therapy, psychological counseling and educational support. People with spina bifida can also benefit from the use of assistive devices such as wheelchairs and orthotic braces.
Lifestyle Choices to Reduce Risk of Developing Spinal Bifida.
Research suggests that a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy can help to reduce the risk of developing spina bifida. Some lifestyle choices that can reduce risk include eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding alcohol and drugs, avoiding excessive caffeine consumption, taking folic acid supplements, and educating oneself about early warning signs of the condition. Women looking to become pregnant should also consult their doctor for any additional advice related to spina bifida prevention.