Guide to Microcephaly: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Methods, Life Expectancy, and Pictures

Causes

This condition is most often caused by genetic abnormalities interfering with the growth of the cerebral cortex during the first few months of pregnancy.

Babies may also be born with microcephaly if their mother abused drugs or alcohol or became infected with a cytomegalovirus, rubella (German measles), varicella virus (chicken pox), or Zika virus during pregnancy. It is also possible for the condition to occur if the mother was exposed to certain toxic chemicals or had untreated phenylketonuria, which is a harmful buildup of the amino acid phenylalanine in the blood, during pregnancy.

When contracted through a virus, such as the Zika virus, there is often widespread tissue and cell damage that leads the brain to shrink.

There are a few other conditions that can also cause microcephaly:

  • Craniosynostosis: The premature fusing of joints between bony plates that form an infant's skull. Treatment usually involves 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.
  • Severe malnutrition
  • Chromosomal abnormalities: Microcephaly is often associated with neurometabolic syndrome, Down’s syndrome, and other chromosomal syndromes.

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