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The Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, South Africa

Area: Durban, Kwazulu Natal
Region: Kwazulu Natal
Physical Address: 98 Marine Drive, Bluff, Durban, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa
Postal Address: 98 Marine Drive, Bluff, Durban, 4052, South Africa
Phone: +27 (0)31 466 3600
Contact Person: Noreen Vissers

Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect which occurs when the neural tube does not close properly along its length so part of the meninges or spinal cord protrudes through the spinal column, often resulting in physical disability. The severity of the problems caused by spina bifida depends on the size of the lesion, its location along the spine and the extent of the damage caused to the spinal cord. It can result in lack of bladder or bowel control, paralysis of the legs and abnormal spinal curvature.

Hydrocephalus occurs in about 80% of children with spina bifida. It is due to an abnormality that prevents free circulation and drainage of the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that circulates in the brain and spinal cord). As a result, the fluid accumulates and causes the head to enlarge excessively. If not treated this may cause brain damage and may lead to mental disability.

Other neural tube defects include anencephaly and encephalocoele. The incidence of neural tube defects varies according to region, social class and population group. The incidence in South Africa is believed to be around 1 in 500 to 800 births making these conditions an important field of research. Inheritance is multifactorial which means that genes from both parents interact with some factors in the environment to cause a defect. Research in many countries has shown that periconceptual folic acid intake can greatly reduce a woman's risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect.

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