Early symptoms of microcephaly
The earliest of early symptoms of microcephaly is a head that is smaller than expected at birth. During a normal pregnancy, the growth of the brain requires the head to grow as well. In cases of microcephaly, it is likely that the brain has not developed properly, in turn hindering the head’s growth and potentially leading to developmental problems. Microcephaly may or may not be accompanied by other birth defects.
Microcephaly symptoms/complications include:
· A head size considerably smaller than that of other children of the same age and sex.
· Developmental delay (speech problems, and other developmental milestones such as sitting, standing, and walking).
· Intellectual disability.
· Movement, coordination, and balance problems.
· Feeding difficulties (for example problems swallowing).
· Loss of hearing.
· Vision problems.
· Facial distortions.
· Mental retardation.
According to the CDC, “microcephaly ranges from 2 babies per 10,000 live births to about 12 babies per 10,000 live births in the Unites States.” Thus it is safe to say that this is not a common birth defect. However, the current Zika virus outbreak in the Americas – mainly Brazil – and a possible link between that infection and microcephaly have drawn renewed attention to the condition. Other causes/risk factors may include the following:
· Chromosomal abnormalities.
· Decreased oxygen to the fetal brain.
· Infections of the fetus during pregnancy.
· Exposure to drugs, alcohol or certain toxic chemicals in the womb.
· Severe malnutrition.
· Uncontrolled phenylketonuria in the mother.
· Certain infections like rubella, toxoplasmosis, or cytomegalovirus.
It is possible to diagnose microcephaly during pregnancy with an ultrasound performed late in the second trimester, or early in the third trimester. Microcephaly can also be diagnosed after the baby is born by measuring the circumference of the head, and comparing it to population standards by sex and age. But since it is difficult to foretell what kind of complications a newborn may experience as a result. Therefore, infants with this condition are often in need of having their growth and development monitored through a series of follow-up check-ups. Other than surgery for craniosynostosis, there is no cure or treatment for microcephaly. At best, a healthcare provider can prescribe medications and other medical supplies for home care to manage the above-mentioned complications – for instance, food thickener to address swallowing problems. The good news is that most babies with mild microcephaly usually don’t experience any other problems besides small head size. The bad news is that most babies with mild microcephaly usually don’t experience any other problems besides small head size (bully alert). Coping measures include:
· Assembling a team of doctors – including specialists in pediatrics and developmental pediatrics, infectious diseases, neurology, ophthalmology, genetics and psychology –, teachers, therapists and other professionals.
· Forming support groups with other parents who are going through similar situations.
Preventing microcephaly the first time around is tough, but having a child with this condition can allow parents to take the risk into account for possible future pregnancies. Additionally, the CDC is currently recommending women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to refrain from traveling to areas where there is active transmission of the Zika virus.
Related: Early symptoms of zika virus