Defining Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida occurs when an infant is in the womb and their spinal cord doesn’t form correctly due to an incomplete closure of the neural tube. This leaves vertebrae in the spinal cord open, which can occasionally be accompanied by fluid filled sacs on the spinal cord.

The condition is relatively frequent and affects almost 8 infants born each day in the United States. In our time, Spina Bifida is one of the most common conditions detected, and it is estimated that the number of Americans living with the condition may be as high as 166,000.

There is no known cause for Spina Bifida, though it’s believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are behind the development of the condition in infants.

The condition is usually detected and promptly treated within 2-3 days of birth. Treatment this early on in a child’s life can help prevent infection and can protect the spinal cord from further damage.

Research has also found that an increased intake of folic acid prior to and during pregnancy can actually lessen the risk of Spina Bifida or neural tube problems in infants, which is encouraging news for expectant parents.

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Types of Spina Bifida

There are four types of Spina Bifida. Each type varies in seriousness and treatment. It is important to note that you should always consult with a physician if any related symptoms are suspected.

  • Occult Spinal Dysraphism — this variation is often detected by a dimple in the baby’s lower back. Other signals include red marks, hyperpigmentation on the back, tufts of hair, or small lumps.
  • Spina Bifida Occulta — often called “hidden Spina Bifida,” this variation often goes undetected with no visible signs. It usually requires an x-ray of the back to discover a case of this type of the condition. In some people, pain and neurological symptoms can occur, and further treatment would be necessary. Generally, SBO will not need to be treated.
  • Meningocele — a meningocele causes a portion of the spinal cord to come through the spine. In these cases, nerve fluid remains in the sac and there is hardly ever nerve damage as a result.
  • Myelomeningocele, Spina Bifida Cystica — this is the most serious form of the condition and usually causes nerve damage and disabilities. Portions of the spinal cord and nerves come through the open part of the spine, often resulting in pain and pressure from the lack of drainage of fluids.

Managing Incontinence with Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is usually detected very quickly after birth and treatment begins as promptly as possible, often within days of birth. For children living with the condition, any further damage to the spinal cord can not only affect mobility but can also lead to incontinence or reduced bladder and bowel function.

When living with the condition, a child might need to self-catheterize. In this case, there are many guides available to encourage younger patients to gain the confidence and support they need to independently catheterize.

Using an Intermittent Catheter

Using a clean intermittent catheter can greatly benefit the individual by:

  • Avoiding urinary tract infection
  • Avoiding bladder and kidney damage
  • Improves short and long-term overall health
  • Manage incontinence while in a social or home setting

Continence Control as a Child/Young Adult

Many children with Spina Bifida experience a weakened bladder, commonly called a neurogenic bladder. This condition causes the nerves from the spinal cord to brain to unsuccessfully signal the brain that relief is necessary. For this reason, there are several options available to help children manage incontinence.

Keeping the urinary tract healthy is essential at any age, but it’s especially important to educate children on proper care. At different ages, a doctor might recommend a different solution for incontinence. The most common treatment options are:

Clean intermittent catheterization — a soft, flexible catheter is inserted into the bladder to drain urine. Catheterization, when applied properly, helps prevent infection and increases comfort.

Medications — some antibiotics are used to prevent and treat infection, prevent leaking and relax the bladder.

Surgery — often a last resort, surgical procedures can be performed to treat bladder pain, improve function or help the patient manage incontinence in a more efficient way.

Continence Control as an Adult

As an adult, you’ve likely learned how to best manage your incontinence, but there are still many things to keep in mind that can help you manage treatment most effectively. It’s important to see your healthcare provider and urologist each year in order to best manage your symptoms and ensure you’re healthy.

Be sure to consistently:

  • Monitor your level of dryness to avoid infection
  • Be aware of any symptoms that might signal an underlying UTI (chills, nausea, back pain, changes in urine)
  • Make self-care a priority in daily life

How Aeroflow Urology Can Help

No matter what type of catheter or incontinence treatment plan you require, Aeroflow can help you get the support and items you need to stay healthy and comfortable from day to day. We are happy to help you find the right product to best fit your lifestyle and needs; give us a call today at 844-276-5588 or check your eligibility through our form.