Cephalic Disorder - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

By: Corwin Brown

Cephalic disorders are not necessarily caused by a single factor, but may be influenced by hereditary or genetic conditions, nutritional deficiencies, or by environmental exposures during pregnancy, such as medication taken by the mother, maternal infection, or exposure to radiation (such disorders are more common in areas of the former Soviet Union affected by nuclear waste disposal problems, such as the area around the Mayak plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia.) Some cephalic disorders occur when the cranial sutures (the fibrous joints that connect the bones of the skull) join prematurely. Most cephalic disorders are caused by a disturbance that occurs very early in the development of the fetal nervous system.

This literally means absence of the head. It is a much rarer condition than anencephaly. The acephalic fetus is a parasitic twin attached to an otherwise intact fetus. The acephalic fetus has a body but lacks a head and heart; the fetus's neck is attached to the normal twin. The blood circulation of the acephalic fetus is provided by the heart of the twin. The acephalic fetus can not exist independently of the fetus to which it is attached. Similarly, acardiac fetuses lack everything from the heart upwards.

Causes

Major cause of chronic, disabling disorders, and sometimes death in infants, children, and even adults. Cephalic disorders may be influenced by hereditary or genetic conditions or by environmental exposures during pregnancy (e.g., medication taken by the mother, maternal infection, exposure to radiation). Some cephalic disorders occur when the cranial sutures (the fibrous joints that connect the bones of the skull) join prematurely.

Cephalic disorders are not necessarily caused by a single factor, but may be influenced by hereditary or genetic conditions, or by environmental exposures during pregnancy such as medication taken by the mother, maternal infection, or exposure to radiation. Some cephalic disorders occur when the cranial sutures (the fibrous joints that connect the bones of the skull) join prematurely. Most cephalic disorders are caused by a disturbance that occurs very early in the development of the fetal nervous system.

Cephalic disorders may be influenced by hereditary or genetic conditions or by environmental exposures during pregnancy (e.g., medication taken by the mother, maternal infection, exposure to radiation). Some cephalic disorders occur when the cranial sutures (the fibrous joints that connect the bones of the skull) join prematurely.

Symptoms

Symptoms include delayed growth and development, slight or partial paralysis, decreased muscle tone (hypotonia), seizures or spasms, macrocephaly or microcephaly, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, shrinkage or shortening of muscles, and mental retardation. Speech development may range from poor to absent.

Signs and symptoms of cephalic disorders vary depending on the nature and severity of the disorders. Mild cases of cephalic disorder produce few if any symptoms. More significant cases of cephalic disorder may result in severe physical abnormalities and profound cognitive impairment. Many children with significant cephalic disorders do not live long, are miscarried or arrive stillborn.

Treatments

There is no definitive treatment for colpocephaly. Anticonvulsant medications can be given to prevent seizures, and doctors try to prevent contractures (shrinkage or shortening of muscles). The prognosis for individuals with colpocephaly depends on the severity of the associated conditions and the degree of abnormal brain development. Some children benefit from special education. Treatment is only symptomatic and supportive. In some cases, anticonvulsant medications shunts, or physical therapy are appropriate.

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