Microcephaly is a neurological disorder that occurs because a child’s brain does not develop or grow properly. The end result of this leads to the size of the head being smaller than normal. This results in the brain not being able to grow at the normal pace and neither does the skull also. Many children that suffer from microcephaly also have cognitive delay and neurological problems also. A child can also have other problems such as being short in height or dwarfism, facial deformities and seizure.
Though it is not possible to restore a child’s brain to its normal size and appearance, the treatment for the same can be done by understanding the neurological and emotional symptoms of the child. Of late, the spread of Zika Virus has been connected with Microcephaly, wherein the condition can give rise to birth defects in a chil.
The possible causes are multiple:
- An inherited defect in the gene that interferes with the brains maturing and growing can lead to this disorder.
- There are cases where the mother is affected during pregnancy. In such cases the reasons could be consumption of some substance, inadequate nutrition, exposure to toxic chemicals, and exposure to certain viruses such as chicken pox and rubella or untreated phenylketonuria.
- The baby can be born healthy but can acquire microcephaly from a brain injury, lack of oxygen to the brain or an infection in the brain.
Signs and symptoms of Microcephaly
The main symptom is the size of the head that is smaller than the normal size. Some other signs can be loss of appetite or feeding, very high pitched crying of the child and spasticity which is involuntary muscle disorder.
Are there different types of microcephaly?
This disorder is classified according to its severity. They may have some complications such as seizure. Not only is the head size smaller and the height is shorter. However the child is able to think normally and can do everything like all normal humans do.
What are the complications?
Children suffering from this disorder may face the following complications as they grow:
- Mental retardation
- Facial distortion
- Delayed development in speech and movement
- Balance difficulty and coordination problem
Preparing for an appointment
Once this disorder is suspected or noticed in a child one must begin to search for a pediatrician .The child can be further referred to a pediatric neurologist. Here are some points that one must have to bear in mind before taking an appointment.
- Firstly jot down the concerns about the child including the delayed development and the small size of the head.
- Family members should accompany the child so as to give a first hand and accurate report.
- Note down question that one would like to ask the doctor.
Some of the basic questions family members would like to ask the doctor could be as follows:
- What is the most likely cause of the child’s condition?
- Does the child need additional tests?
- What are the treatments available?
- If the family plans to have another child what is the possibility of this disorder occurring again.
- Is there any treatment that can bring the child’s head to normal size?
- What websites can be recommended on this disorder?
- Are any brochures or journals available that can provide added information regarding the disorder?
Tests and diagnosis
The doctor will take a thorough prenatal birth and family history physical examination in order to find if the child is having this disorder called microcephaly. The doctor will further measure the circumference of the child’s head, and compare it with a growth chart. He will then continue to monitor on successive visits the growth of the size of the head. At times even the parents head is also measured to determine that small heads do not run in the family. The doctor can also recommend a CT scan or MRI. Blood tests can also be recommended by the doctor to help determine the cause in delay of growth.
Treatment for Microcephaly
Generally there is no treatment for such disorders besides surgery. Even to reverse complications there is no treatment. The only treatment available is how to focus on the child’s condition. Early intervention programs like speech and physical therapy could help to a certain extent. Drugs could be recommended by the doctor in cases of seizure.
When one learns about the child having such a disorder the first reactions are of anger, fear, worry, guilt and sadness. The best way to cope with this situation is to first accept the reality. This is the only major step that one has to take control of. Though it is easier said than done, parents must accept the truth in totality. Doctors, teachers and technical specialist can also help in such cases. Even online support groups are available. Community support groups can help in a great way to both the parents and the child.
Microcephaly – Pictures
Microcephaly – life expectancy
The life expectancy for Microcephaly is unpredictable. While on an average, they live between 30-35 years of age, some live even longer. Some of them even do not live beyond their first year. In case, they are not able to live or function independently in a social circle, parents will have to plan for their living and financial well-being.
Filed in: Conditions