ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Microcephaly – Pictures, Life Expectancy, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Updated on February 17, 2014

What is Microcephaly ?

Microcephaly is a neurological disorder characterized by a smaller head size than what is considered standard. Individuals affected by this condition have abnormally small heads which are not proportional to their body size. Furthermore, mental retardation could also exist since the brain is underdeveloped. This congenital aberration could already be present at birth or may develop early in life. Microcephaly has a number of possible causes; just as the extent of problems resulting from the condition also largely vary between individuals. For this reason, this condition is treated based on the symptoms exhibited by the child and the treatment methods employed greatly differs from case to case.

About Microcephaly

Derived from the words “micro” which means small and "cephaly” pertaining to the head, microcephaly is an abnormality typified by having a small head circumference. This condition is usually obvious at birth, but in some cases it develops in the first couple of years after birth. Because the head is small, the development of the brain is also affected. The degree of mental retardation suffered by children with this disorder ranges from very mild to severe. Though microcephaly has no cure, the symptoms can be treated to improve the child’s quality of life.

Causes of Microcephaly

A small head arises from the fact that the brain did not develop properly. This abnormality in the formation of the brain could happen while still in utero or while the baby is still very young. Abnormal brain development has a number of possible causes, including:

  • Hereditary

Inherited microcephaly is possible but extremely rare. Only about one in 30,000 live births result in genetic microcephaly, compared to one in 10,000 births attributed to other causes.

  • Genetic conditions

Though true hereditary microcephaly is rare, small head circumference together with abnormal brain development resulting from other genetic conditions is possible. Some of these are Trisomy 18, Trisomy 13, Cri-du-chat (cat’s cry) syndrome, 4p- syndrome, Down syndrome, Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome and Seckel syndrome.

  • Environment

External factors, especially during pregnancy, could influence the development of the fetus’ brain and lead to underdevelopment of the brain and a small head. If the mother is exposed to certain drugs, medications, toxins and viruses while she is pregnant, the child she is carrying may suffer from abnormalities like microcephaly. Exposure to toxoplasma gondi, cytomegalovirus, rubella (virus that causes German measles) and methylmercury are some of the environmental factors that may cause the condition. Alcohol consumption and use of drugs during pregnancy could also do the same. The baby could also develop microcephaly if the mother is severely malnourished during her pregnancy.

  • Complications during childbirth

When the level of oxygen delivered to the fetus’ brain during delivery is low, this may lead the baby to develop microcephaly early in life.

Signs and Symptoms of Microcephaly

Microcephalics, or babies affected with microcephaly, have distinctly smaller heads than their normal counterparts. Those whose condition is hereditary in origin have small heads and facial deformities as the only clear-cut physical signs of the disorder. For those cases resulting from other genetic conditions or environmental factors, the child may exhibit a receding forehead, big nose and large ears in addition to having an undersized head.

Microcephalics often suffer from various kinds of physical and mental developmental problems. Their physical growth is stunted; the speech development is delayed; and the motor skills, like walking, are slow to develop. Some of the affected children likewise suffer from strabismus, spasticity and seizures. Their moods and personalities could be erratic and extreme.

Even so, not all microcephalics manifest these signs and symptoms. There are about ten percent whose brain functions are not affected at all.

Diagnosis

Microcephaly could be detected while the fetus is still in the womb during ultrasound. In newborns, the distinct small size of the head, flattened back of the head, closed fontanels, and receding forehead could lead to the diagnosis of the condition. The baby’s growth is closely monitored by the doctor, especially in the first two years of life. One of the parameters routinely measured is the circumference of the head. This is a means to check if the brain is growing normally. The doctor may make a diagnosis if he observes abnormalities in the development and makes further diagnostic procedures.

Treatment and Management

There is no cure for microcephaly. Instead, the treatment is aimed at addressing and managing symptoms and any resulting complications. Those who are fortunate to have no developmental or physical abnormalities need no treatment. On the other hand, microcephalics who have problems with motor functions or speech development could be aided by occupational therapy and speech therapy, respectively. If the child suffers from seizures, mood swings or hyperactivity, drugs could be prescribed to better manage them.

Microcephaly -Prognosis and Life Expectancy

The outlook of children with microcephaly greatly depends on the severity of the condition and its complications. Those who do not have any mental abnormalities lead normal, full lives. Meanwhile, the appropriate therapy, medications and supportive care can significantly improve the quality of life and life expectancy of microcephalics who are severely affected.



Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)