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Diseases & Conditions

Microcephaly—Information & Prognosis

The entirety of a pregnancy is critical for a fetus to properly develop. Each trimester allows for specialized growth and advances the fetus toward, hopefully, a healthy birth. Sometimes genetic abnormalities can impede proper development within the cerebral cortex, which may help to spur on severe problems such as Down's syndrome as well as other chromosomal conditions and neurometabolic syndromes. Microcephaly, a rare nervous system disorder, is a severe condition in which a fetus's head does not develop properly and as a result is extremely smaller than normal. A fetus's head expands and grows in direct relation to the growth of its brain, so a small head size may indicate that the brain has not fully developed.

Potential Causes of Microcephaly

There are multiple issues that could potentially bring about microcephaly that are related to the health and habits of the mother during, or before, her pregnancy. Let's look at some of the most common causes.

  • Drug and alcohol abuse during a pregnancy
  • If a pregnant mother has untreated phenylketonuria
  • Infection with a cytomegalovirus during a pregnancy
  • Infection with rubella during a pregnancy
  • Infection with varicella during a pregnancy
  • Exposure to certain toxic chemicals or substances during a pregnancy

IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING ZIKA VIRUS:
Recent studies have suggested that pregnant mothers who have Zika virus exposure may be at a heightened risk for fetal infection, which could lead to microcephaly.

Other Potential Problems that Could Present with Microcephaly

  • Developmental Delay (general)
  • Speech Development Problems
  • Developmental Issues with Basic Movements (standing, walking, or sitting)
  • Decrease In Daily Functioning
  • Decrease in Ability to Learn
  • Balance Problems
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Difficulty Eating
  • Vision Problems
  • Loss of, or Severely Impaired Hearing

Prognosis

Fortunately, some babies with microcephaly will grow and develop after birth and suffer only mild disabilities, and may meet or come close to meeting normal development milestones as they age. Others may have significant and severe problems with learning, movement, and functioning. Additionally, a child with microcephaly is prone to a number of other potentially severe medical issues such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Treatment

A baby with microcephaly will need long-term care and monitoring as he or she grows, develops, and ages. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help alleviate or control seizures as well as bouts with hyperactivity and/or medicines that could drastically improve muscle and nerve function. Additionally, your doctor may recommend speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Talk to your doctor about the options for your child regarding therapy and compounded medications.

  • "It is rare to find health professionals who are so willing to educate the patient on what they need to know."

    Clair C. | West Hollywood, CA