In early development, the brain and spinal cord start as a tube-like structure called the ‘neural tube’ that is open at either end. These openings close within the first weeks of pregnancy, and the neural tube continues to grow and fold, eventually forming the brain and spinal cord.
Myelomeningocele is a type of spina bifida. This is when the neural tube has failed to close and the neural tissue is exposed on the baby’s back. The myelomeningocele will look like a sac sticking out from a baby’s back.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a watery liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, acting as a ‘cushion’. It also supplies nutrients to the brain. Hydrocephalus occurs when either too much CSF is produced (very rare), or when it is stopped from circulating or being re-absorbed. The CSF builds up within the ventricles (cavities) of the brain resulting in increased pressure on the brain. In babies, this also causes the head to enlarge
In the womb, the retina (the light sensitive surface at the back of the eye that converts images into nerve signals that the brain understands) develops slowly and the retinal blood vessels often only complete growing by the end of gestation. If a child is born prematurely these blood vessels can grow abnormally causing damage to the retina and of course vision. This is called retinopathy of prematurity.
Optic neuritis (ON) is an attack of inflammation (swelling) of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is important in sending information from the eye to the brain about what we are seeing. ON is caused by the body’s immune system becoming mis-programmed and activating immune cells to attack the healthy myelin covering the optic nerve.
A cleft is a hole or gap affecting the tissues in the lip. This information sheet from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) explains the causes, symptoms and treatment of cleft lip and where to get help.
A cleft lip is a gap in the upper lip and can involve the gum as well. It can affect one side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral) of the upper lip. It can be a small gap in the lip (incomplete cleft lip) or it can extend into the base of the nose (complete cleft lip).
Symbrachydactyly is a congenital (present at birth) hand anomaly, which affects a single upper limb. It is not inherited. It is characterised by short, stiff, webbed or missing fingers. The underlying muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones are all affected.
Syndactyly means 'joined digits' and may involve webbing of the skin, or include fusion of the underlying bones. This may be along part or the whole length of the finger. It is the second most common congenital hand problem and occurs in around 1 in 1,000 births.