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Microcephaly: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Sep 22, 2023

Microcephaly: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

A rare neurological disease known as microcephaly causes an infant's head to be significantly smaller than the heads of other infants of the same age and sex. Microcephaly frequently happens when there is a defect in brain development during pregnancy or when the brain stops developing after birth. It is occasionally discovered at birth.

Microcephaly has many genetic and environmental factors. Children with microcephaly usually have difficulty in development. Although there is no effective treatment for microcephaly. A child's development and quality of life may be improved with early intervention in speech, occupational, and other supporting therapy.

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Causes of Microcephaly

Microcephaly is typically caused by a problem with brain development, which can be congenital or appear during birth. Other potential factors include:

  • Craniosynostosis. The joints (sutures) between the bone plates that make up an infant's skull fuse early, preventing the brain from developing. Typically, infants with craniosynostosis require surgery to separate the fused bones. By removing pressure from the brain, this procedure gives it the room it needs to expand and develop.
  • Genetic alterations. Both Down syndrome and other medical conditions can result in microcephaly.
  • A reduction in the fetal brain's oxygen supply (cerebral anoxia). The transport of oxygen to a baby's brain can be compromised by specific pregnancy or delivery issues.
  • Infections during pregnancy are passed on to the fetus. These include toxoplasmosis, CMV, rubella, varicella, German measles, and Zika virus.
  • exposure to harmful substances while still in the fetus, such as alcohol or narcotics. Any of these could influence the fetal brain during pregnancy.
  • Extreme undernutrition. The fetal brain's development may suffer if pregnant women don't acquire adequate nourishment.
  • Uncontrolled phenylketonuria, or PKU Phenylketonuria (PKU) impairs the mother's capacity to break down the amino acid phenylalanine and could have an impact on the fetus's ability to grow its brain during pregnancy.

Symptoms Of Microcephaly

A child with microcephaly often has a smaller head than other children their age and sex.

We measure head size by the circumference of a child's head, which is roughly 24 inches. Healthcare practitioners use standardized growth charts to compare the measurements to the percentiles of other children's measurements.

Some children simply have heads that are smaller than typical for their age and gender, with measures that are below average. Children with microcephaly have considerably smaller heads than the average for their age and gender.

A child with more severe microcephaly may also have a sloping forehead.

Diagnosis Of Microcephaly

Your doctor will likely perform a complete prenatal, birth, and family history check, as well as a physical examination, to determine if your child has microcephaly. Your doctor will measure your child's head circumference, plot the growth, and compare the results with a growth chart. To find out whether small heads run in the family, one can measure the heads of the parents.

A head CT scan or MRI as well as blood tests may be recommended by your doctor in some circumstances, especially if your child's development is being delayed, to help identify the underlying cause of the delay.

Treatment Of Microcephaly

There is typically no treatment that will increase your child's head size or reverse the consequences of microcephaly, with the exception of surgery for craniosynostosis. The focus of treatment is on managing your child's condition. Your child's potential may be maximized through early childhood intervention programs that incorporate speech, physical, and occupational therapy.

If the child is experiencing seizures or excessive activity as a result of microcephaly, your doctor may advise taking medication.

Prevention Of Microcephaly

When you find out your child has microcephaly, you can have concerns about subsequent pregnancies. Discover the reason for the microcephaly while discussing it with your healthcare provider. If the cause is genetic, you might want to discuss the possibility of microcephaly in future pregnancies with a genetic counselor.

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