Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

What Is Spina Bifida Occulta?

Spina Bifida Occulta is a common musculoskeletal condition characterized by inflammation of the spine. This condition develops before the birth of the child while the fetus is in the developing stage normally during the first trimester. Individuals with this condition have vertebrae that are not properly closed and have minute gaps in between them predisposing the spinal column to various injuries. The spinal cord which is a part of the spinal column is one of the most important parts of the body and is responsible for stability and movement of an individual.

Spina Bifida Occulta normally is an asymptomatic and does not pose any threat to the overall health of the individual condition, but in some cases individuals have experienced some symptoms. There are many cases where the individual does not even know that they have Spina Bifida Occulta.

What Is Spina Bifida Occulta?

What Causes Spina Bifida Occulta?

The primary reason as to why Spina Bifida Occulta develops is something that still has not been identified by the researchers, but one theory that is vastly believed to be the reasons for the development of Spina Bifida Occulta is inadequate intake of folic acid during pregnancy. Folic acid is a vitamin which is quite necessary in pregnant females for healthy development of the baby. Studies have recommended at least 400 mcg of folic acid a day in pregnant females in order to prevent conditions like Spina Bifida Occulta.

In cases where the female is a diabetic or has a child who already has this condition then the amount of folic acid required rises exponentially to 4000 mcg a day to prevent another child with Spina Bifida Occulta.

What Are The Symptoms Of Spina Bifida Occulta?

The symptoms of Spina Bifida Occulta depend on the number of vertebrae that are not closed properly and the length of the gaps that are created by them. Majority of the cases of Spina Bifida Occulta are mild and produce no symptoms at all and are basically harmless. This is because the gaps that arise due to Spina Bifida Occulta are extremely small and does not harm to the spinal column including the spinal cord. There are however cases where symptoms may be experienced by some individuals. These symptoms are:

  • Back pain
  • Weakness of the lower extremities
  • Pain behind the legs
  • Difficulty controlling bowel and/or bladder
  • Scoliosis
  • Numbness sensation in the back or legs
  • Deformity of the legs and feet

Additionally, there are some telltale signs which points to the presence of Spina Bifida Occulta. These signs are basically seen on the skin of the lower back. These signs are:

  • A hairy patch along the skin surface of the lower back.
  • Birthmark along the lower back.
  • Growth of fat along the lower back.

If these above mentioned signs are present, then it may be advisable to take the child to the pediatrician to check whether the child has Spina Bifida Occulta.

How Is Spina Bifida Occulta Diagnosed?

Spina Bifida Occulta is condition which is diagnosed incidentally when testing is being done to rule out some other medical condition. The main reason behind this is that Spina Bifida Occulta rarely causes any symptoms and is more or less a harmless condition.

Certain signs that have been mentioned above may help the physician suspect a condition like Spina Bifida Occulta. Advanced radiological studies of the spine may clearly show the minute gaps due to inadequately closed vertebrae and confirm the diagnosis of Spina Bifida Occulta.

How Is Spina Bifida Occulta Treated?

As of now, there is no way to completely cure Spina Bifida Occulta. In majority of the cases, the treatment is not required as there are no symptoms caused by this condition and in fact, the patient may not even know that they have Spina Bifida Occulta.

If an individual experiences symptoms of this condition, then those can be easily treated with medications. In case if there is tethered cord identified as a result of Spina Bifida Occulta then surgery may be required to ease the tension in the cord and treat the symptoms of tethered cord syndrome arising out of Spina Bifida Occulta.

What Is The Overall Prognosis For Spina Bifida Occulta?

Spina Bifida Occulta is quite a common condition which does not cause any harm to the body and in majority of the cases does not even cause any symptoms. There are a host of cases where the individual does not even know that one has this condition due to lack of any symptoms. Even if there are symptoms, they can be easily managed with medications or at times with surgery. Thus, the overall prognosis is quite good for an individual with Spina Bifida Occulta.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: June 13, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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