About microcephaly

What is microcephaly?

Microcephaly is a condition where the head (circumference) is smaller than normal.

  • Microcephaly may be caused by genetic abnormalities or by drugs, alcohol, certain viruses, and toxins that are exposed to the fetus during pregnancy and damage the developing brain tissue.
  • Signs and symptoms of microcephaly may include a smaller than normal head circumference that usually remains smaller than normal as the child grows, dwarfism or short stature, delayed motor and speech functions, mental retardation, seizures, facial distortions, hyperactivity, balance and coordination problems, and other brain-related or neurological problems; although some with the disorder may develop normal intelligence.
  • There is no treatment to change the head size; programs are available to help these individuals reach their maximum potential and genetic counseling may help explain the risk for microcephaly in future pregnancies.
  • Research on microcephaly is ongoing; for example, researchers found that amino acid therapy may reduce seizure activity in some patients.

What is microcephaly?

Microcephaly is a medical condition in which the circumference of the head is smaller than normal because the brain has not developed properly or has stopped growing. Microcephaly can be present at birth or it may develop in the first few years of life.

What are the symptoms for microcephaly?

The primary sign of microcephaly is:

  • A head size significantly smaller than that of other children of the same age and sex

Head size is measured as the distance around the top of the child's head (circumference). Using standardized growth charts, the measurement is compared with other children's measurements in percentiles.

Some children just have small heads, whose measurement falls as low as the first percentile. In children with microcephaly, head size measures significantly below average, possibly even below the first percentile for your baby's age and sex.

A child with more severe microcephaly may also have a backward-sloping forehead.

When to see a doctor

Chances are your doctor will detect microcephaly at the baby's birth or at a regular well-baby checkup. However, if you think your baby's head is smaller than normal or isn't growing as it should, talk to your doctor.

What are the causes for microcephaly?

Microcephaly usually is the result of abnormal brain development, which can occur in the womb (congenital) or during infancy. Microcephaly may be genetic. Other causes may include:

  • Craniosynostosis. The premature fusing of the joints (sutures) between the bony plates that form an infant's skull keeps the brain from growing. Treating craniosynostosis (kray-nee-o-sin-os-TOE-sis) usually means your infant needs surgery to separate the fused bones. If there are no underlying problems in the brain, this surgery allows the brain adequate space to grow and develop.
  • Chromosomal abnormalities. Down syndrome and other conditions may result in microcephaly.
  • Decreased oxygen to the fetal brain (cerebral anoxia). Certain complications of pregnancy or delivery can impair oxygen delivery to the fetal brain.
  • Infections passed to the fetus during pregnancy. These include toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, German measles (rubella), chickenpox (varicella) and Zika virus.
  • Exposure to drugs, alcohol or certain toxic chemicals in the womb. Any of these put your baby at risk of brain abnormalities.
  • Severe malnutrition. Not getting adequate nutrition during pregnancy can affect your baby's development.
  • Uncontrolled phenylketonuria (fen-ul-kee-toe-NU-ree-uh), also known as PKU, in the mother. PKU is a birth defect that hampers the body's ability to break down the amino acid phenylalanine.

What are the treatments for microcephaly?

Except for surgery for craniosynostosis, there's generally no treatment that will enlarge your child's head or reverse complications of microcephaly. Treatment focuses on ways to manage your child's condition. Early childhood intervention programs that include speech, physical and occupational therapy may help to maximize your child's abilities.

Your health care provider might recommend medication for certain complications of microcephaly, such as seizures or hyperactivity.

What are the risk factors for microcephaly?

Microcephaly is an uncommon neurological ailment in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than other kids of the same age and gender. Microcephaly, which is sometimes discovered at birth, arises when there is an issue with brain growth in pregnancy or when the brain stops expanding after birth.
A range of genes and environmental influences can contribute to microcephaly. Children with microcephaly frequently have developmental problems. Although there is no cure for microcephaly, early intervention with speech, occupational, and other supporting treatments can aid a child's development and quality of life.
Risk Factors
1. The early fusion of the joints (sutures) that build an infant's skull prevents the brain from expanding. To treat craniosynostosis, an infant usually requires surgery to disconnect the fused bones. This operation removes pressure on the brain, allowing it to grow and develop normally.
2. Genetic alterations Microcephaly can be caused by Down syndrome and other diseases.
3. Reduced oxygen supply to the embryonic brain (cerebral anoxia). Certain pregnancy or delivery difficulties can decrease oxygen flow to a baby's brain.
4. During pregnancy, infections are passed on to the fetus. Toxoplasmosis, CMV, German measles (rubella), chickenpox (varicella), and Zika virus are among them.
5. Prenatal exposure to drugs, alcohol, or certain hazardous substances. Any of these factors could have an impact on neurodevelopment during pregnancy.
6. A lack of nutrition during pregnancy may harm baby's brain development.
7. The mother has untreated phenylketonuria, also called PKU. PKU impairs the mother's capacity to break down the amino acid phenylalanine and may disrupt the fetus's brain development during pregnancy.

The appearance of the baby’s head is very small,High-pitched cry,Poor feeding,Seizures,Increased movement of the arms and legs (spasticity),Developmental delays,Intellectual disability
Developmental delay,Seizures,Language processing,Feeding problems,Sensory processing

Is there a cure/medications for microcephaly?

Microcephaly is a disorder in which a baby's head is smaller than usual for his or her age and size. The newborn is either delivered with a smaller head (congenital) or acquires the issue as the baby grows older (acquired). Microcephaly is uncommon, occurring in 2-12 newborns out of every 10,000 births.

1. Microcephaly can be detected in two ways: during pregnancy or after birth. Ultrasound images and data are used to make an in-utero diagnosis.
2. A child's primary care doctor should measure the child's head circumference after birth to monitor development.
3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines microcephaly as two standard deviations below average.
4. If a child's head satisfies the parameters for microcephaly, serial measurements should be taken every few months.
5. Children with microcephaly often require additional imaging, such as a cranial ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to rule out any underlying reasons.
6. Many incidences of microcephaly are incurable. Instead, supportive techniques such as occupational, physical, and speech therapy are frequently used to aid growth. Some kids need medical attention for problems such as seizures. A tiny minority of children will require feeding tube assistance.
7. Surgery is frequently required for a kid with craniosynostosis to reduce the danger of increased intracranial pressure.
8. If there are any concerns about this circumstance, these youngsters should have a CT scan and be sent to a pediatric craniofacial surgeon for additional examination and treatment.

The appearance of the baby’s head is very small,High-pitched cry,Poor feeding,Seizures,Increased movement of the arms and legs (spasticity),Developmental delays,Intellectual disability
Developmental delay,Seizures,Language processing,Feeding problems,Sensory processing

Video related to microcephaly