Microcephaly

1 What is Microcephaly?

A rare neurological condition that occurs if an infant’s head is smaller than the heads of other children with the same sex and age is called Microcephaly, mostly this can be detected at birth.

Microcephaly can be caused by genetic and environmental factors and as a result of the brain developing abnormally while growing up or when still in the womb.

There is no treatment but there are therapies for this and children who have this have developmental issues.

2 Symptoms

The initial symptom for microcephaly is if a head is smaller compared to other infants with the same sex and age.

The doctor will measure the head size of the infant using standardize charts in percentiles.

It is possible that an infant’s head is just small but doesn’t have microcephaly whose measurement is as low as the first percentile, but if it is below average most likely the infant has microcephaly.

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3 Causes

There are many causes of microcephaly.

Causes include:

  • Abnormal brain development that can occur while the baby is still in the womb or during infancy.
  • It can also be genetic or hereditary.
  • Craniosynostosis.
  • Chromosomal abnormalities.
  • Down syndrome.
  • Decreased oxygen to the fetal brain.
  • Infections of the fetus during pregnancy such as chicken pox.
  • German measles.
  • Toxoplasmosis.
  • Cytomegalovirus.
  • If the mother is using alcohol.
  • Drugs.
  • Other toxic chemicals while the baby is still in the womb.
  • Severe malnutrition.
  • PKU or phenylketonuria which is a birth defect.

4 Making a Diagnosis

To diagnose whether your child has microcephaly, the doctor may ask you about prenatal, birth and family history and will give your child a physical exam.

He then will measure your child’s head and compare it with a growth chart.

You may visit your pediatrician if you are bothered by your child’s symptoms. He may refer you to a pediatric neurologist.

Write down your concerns and possible symptoms that you are seeing. Bring a close friend or family member to support you and to help you remember relevant information.

Bring a notebook. You can also write down the vitamins or medicines that your child is taking.

You may ask your pediatrician these:

  • What is the cause of this?
  • Is it genetic or hereditary?
  • Does my child have to undergo tests?
  • Do we have to prepare for these tests?
  • Are there treatments?
  • What is the best action for my child?
  • Are there treatments that will return my child’s head to normal size?
  • If I get pregnant again, what are the chances that they too will have the same condition?
  • Can you recommend any websites? 

5 Treatment

There is no known treatment for microcephaly that will make your child’s head bigger or normal or to avoid complications.

There are treatments that focus on how to manage your child’s microcephaly and programs such as physical and occupational therapy and speech class.

6 Prevention

If you know that you are pregnant, avoid smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs in order to prevent microcephaly. Also avoid people who have diseases such as chicken pox.

You may seek an advice to a genetic counselor about the risks of microcephaly.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

There are no exact alternative remedies to overcome Microcephaly, so it is best to speak with your physician.

The treatment will focus on the ways to decrease the impact of neurological and disabilities and deformities.

There are also intervention programs such as speech, occupational and physical to maximize abilities and minimize dysfunction.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Know about microcephaly, knowledge is the best key to coping with this. 

Prepare yourself for the diagnosis of your child. Surround yourself with people who are willing to support you and your child.

Have a team of experts, teachers and therapists and other people who can help you and your child.

You might seek advice to other families who have the same condition and you may also find a support group in your area.

9 Risks and Complications

Some complications of microcephaly may include:

  • difficulty with balance and coordination,
  • developmental delays mostly in speech and some in movements,
  • facial distortions,
  • short stature or dwarfism,
  • seizures,
  • mental retardation,
  • hyperactivity.

Your doctor may recommend medication for complications like hyperactivity or seizures.

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