​Microcephaly 101

​Microcephaly 101

Contributed by Dr. Gary Clark, Chief of Neurology at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas

Microcephaly has been making headlines over the last year as potential brain malformation connected to women diagnosed with Zika during pregnancy. However, kids are at risk of being born with microcephaly even in areas of the world not hit by the Zika virus. 

Many of these cases are caused by cytomegalovirus, or CMV. Unlike Zika, which is only being actively transmitted in a small area of the world, CMV exists virtually everywhere. To reduce these cases, we need to increase awareness of CMV: causes, detection, treatments, etc. 

Below is a little more information about microcephaly: 

What is microcephaly?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.

What can cause microcephaly?
In most babies, the cause of microcephaly is not known. It can be caused by a change in genes, certain infections during pregnancy, malnutrition, exposure to harmful substances or interruption of the blood supply to the baby’s brain. It can also be caused by certain infections during pregnancy. One such infection is CMV.

How often does microcephaly occur?
According to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, microcephaly is not a common condition. It ranges from two babies per 10,000 live births to about 12 babies per 10,000 live births in the Unites States.

How is microcephaly diagnosed?
It can be diagnosed during pregnancy with an ultrasound tests or after the baby is born.

What problems can microcephaly cause?
Microcephaly has been linked with multiple problems, including seizures, developmental delays (such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones), intellectual disabilities, problems with movement and balance, feeding problems (such as difficulty swallowing), hearing loss and vision problems.

Can microcephaly be treated?
There is no known cure or standard treatment for microcephaly. Microcephaly can range from mild to severe and treatment options can range as well. Babies with mild microcephaly often don’t experience any problems besides having a small head size. For more severe microcephaly, babies will need care and treatment focused on managing their other health problems.

- Contributed by Dr. Gary Clark, Chief of Neurology at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas