By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel

Microcephaly refers to a nervous system disorder. This is a rare medical condition in which the baby’s head is small and not developed fully while his brain also stops growing. Microcephaly may happen when the baby is still a fetus or it may develop within his first few years.

What causes microcephaly?

Most of the cases, the exact causes remain unknown. Possible causes include:

  • Congenital microcephaly caused by a genetic problem
  • Acquired microcephaly caused by environment factors

In congenital microcephaly, the genetic defect affects the brain development. Children with Down syndrome and genetic disorders often have microcephaly.

In acquired microcephaly, the child’s growth and development are harmed by something he contacts with from the environment. Those things can be:

  • Viral infections:  Rubella, Chickenpox or Zika.
  • Parasite infections: toxoplasmosis or cytomegalovirus
  • Toxic chemicals such as lead
  • Lack of nutrients
  • Alcohol and drugs

Other causes leading to acquired microcephaly include:

What are the symptoms of microcephaly?

The most obvious symptom of microcephaly is a small head. Mild cases of microcephaly cause the small head but no other severe problems to the child. Gradually, the head continues to grow, however, it will never reach the size of that of a normal child.

While some children with microcephaly suffer learning difficulties, others have no problem with their intelligence. Even if your child has problems with their intelligence, it will not get any worse, luckily.

Other symptoms can be:

  • Troubles with balancing and coordination
  • Delayed developments sitting, standing, walking, etc.
  • Difficulty swallowing and feeding problems
  • Hearing impairment
  • Hyperactivity (a condition in which the kid has difficulty concentrating or staying calm)
  • Seizures
  • Short height
  • Speech and vision problems

How do doctors treat microcephaly?

Currently, there is no cure available for microcephaly. Doctors can only offer treatment to cope with problems in development, behavior, and seizures.

A child with mild microcephaly will need regular medical checkups to make sure his growth and development are on the right track.

Children with severe cases of microcephaly need lifelong treatment. Their symptoms have to be under control. This is because some of the symptoms can be fatal (seizures, for example). Through lifelong treatment, the child may have better life quality.

Treatments include:

  • Medicines to deal with mental problems like seizures or hyperactivity and to improve nerve and muscle functions.
  • Speech therapy
  • Physical and occupational therapy

How to prevent microcephaly?

While we can do nothing to prevent congenital microcephaly, acquired microcephaly can be avoided if pregnant women take these steps:

  • Have a healthy eating plan with good foods and prenatal vitamins.
  • Avoid the consumption of alcohol and
  • Keep chemicals away.
  • Have regular hand washing
  • Have timely treatment for any illness
  • Do not change the litter box of pets. It is the house of parasites causing
  • Use insect repellents which are labeled as safe during pregnancy.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: May 29, 2017 | Last Modified: December 8, 2019

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