Microcephaly Medical Care in Laguna Hills, CA
Microcephaly is a neurological condition causing a baby's head size to be considerably smaller than other infants of the same age and gender. Normally, a baby's head size increases only as the developing brain increases in volume. In cases of microcephaly, the brain growth is arrested in the womb or after birth.
Microcephaly typically occurs in combination with other major birth defects or developmental issues, but there are cases where microcephaly is an isolated condition with relatively mild developmental issues. Brought to light due to the rise of the Zika virus, microcephaly is one of several brain defects which can occur in pregnant women infected with the virus.
Diagnosable during pregnancy and after the birth of the child, microcephaly is a lifelong condition which requires ongoing monitoring and treatment. To schedule a consultation with a healthcare provider in Laguna Hills that can discuss microcephaly with you, call (949) 829-4929 or contact Dr. Mary O'Toole online.
What Causes Microcephaly?
Microcephaly can occur in the womb, in which case it is characterized as a birth defect, or it can occur after birth. Microcephaly is caused by conditions which arrest brain development. The fetal brain almost triples in size in that last trimester of pregnancy, requiring significant protein, fats and other nutrients. A variety of genetic and environmental causes—from poor nutrition to the random bite of a Zika mosquito—may disrupt this process.
Known microcephaly causes include:
- Maternal infections (e.g., rubella, cytomegalovirus, Zika virus, toxoplasmosis, chicken pox, etc.)
- Malnutrition in utero or after birth
- Maternal use of drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
- Mercury poisoning or exposure to other toxic chemicals in utero or after birth
- Chromosomal disorders (e.g., Down’s syndrome, Trisomy 18, etc.)
- Uncontrolled maternal diabetes or maternal PKU
- Any condition which causes decrease or disruption in oxygen or blood flow to fetal brain
- Craniosynostosis, a condition where bones in the skull fuse and prevent brain growth
- Genetic factors
Microcephaly Symptoms and Diagnosis
The telltale symptoms of microcephaly are the smaller-than-normal head size and receding forehead. As the child grows, the face will continue to increase in size, but the head will not. The body may be disproportionate in size as well. Additional microcephaly symptoms present at birth include:
- Brain damage
- Developmental issues
- Low birth weight and problems feeding
- High-pitched cry
- Erratic or incessant movement of head, arms or legs
As the child grows older, the smaller than normal head size and receding forehead will persist, and the following symptoms may also be observed:
- Disproportionately large face
- Wrinkled, loose skin on scalp
- Developmental delays
- Mental retardation
- Seizure disorders
A prenatal ultrasound can be used to diagnose microcephaly before birth, but usually not until the third trimester. It is most often diagnosed at birth when the circumference of the infant's head is measured and found to be notably smaller than reference charts indicate it should be. Developmental delays later in infancy or in early childhood may lead to a later diagnosis of microcephaly. In some cases, CT scans, MRIs and blood tests will be used in ruling out other medical conditions. A detailed medical history of both parents and offspring will be crucial in determining conditions which may have led to development of microcephaly, especially in ascertaining exposure to drugs, alcohol, chemicals, infectious outbreaks or certain maternal health conditions.
Microcephaly Prognosis and Treatment
As a lifelong condition, with no known cure, microcephaly treatment is designed to address the symptoms of the condition. In severe cases of microcephaly, certain associated health conditions may require treatment (e.g., medications for seizures or hyperactivity, etc.). In rare cases, microcephaly can present at birth with a collapsed skull and the condition may be life-threatening, requiring surgery or other extreme medical intervention.
Some infants with microcephaly have no symptoms other than a smaller-than-normal head size and require no active treatment, other than routine check-ups to monitor their developmental issues. Early intervention with speech, occupational and physical therapy may help maximize physical and mental development.
The prognosis for microcephaly is varied and is often influenced by the presence of other birth defects or health complications. Microcephaly life expectancy, too, is dependent on the severity of microcephaly symptoms. Presently, there is insufficient data to ascertain an average lifespan of an individual with microcephaly; some with microcephaly die with the first year or two of birth, while others live to the age of 30 or longer.
Many of the causes of microcephaly are completely avoidable. Since there is no cure for microcephaly, prevention is the best cure. Proper diet, avoiding the use of drugs or alcohol, avoiding chemical exposure, controlling maternal diabetes or PKU, and proper prenatal care will all go a long way toward preventing the development of microcephaly.
Proper immunization against infections like rubella and chicken pox and avoiding known outbreaks of certain viruses is also important. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) offers alerts of Zika virus outbreaks and encourages pregnant women to avoid travelling in those areas. Genetic testing prior to becoming pregnant may alert you and your spouse to certain genetic conditions which may predispose your child to developing microcephaly.
Request more information about the microcephaly and your prevention and treatment options today. Call (949) 829-4929 or contact Dr. Mary O'Toole online.
Orange Coast Women's Medical Group
Address24411 Health Center Dr.
Laguna Hills, CA 92653
8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Tue: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Wed: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Thu: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Fri: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm