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10 Profound Symptoms Of Brain And Spinal Cord Disorders In Kids

- 26th October 2016
Spinal Cord Disorders

The brain and the spinal cord are comprised of neurons and other cells that maintain the function of the central nervous system. The brain is an important organ of the body because it controls all parts of the body. The spinal cord facilitates the interactions between the brain and the rest of the body. It acts as a bridge to communicate with the brain, by conveying information from and to the brain and the rest of the body.

Any damage to the brain and spinal cord can have significant effect on person’s personality and lifestyle. If it is a child who has sustained the damage, the growth and development may be hampered.

Following are common brain and spinal cord disorders found in children:

Chiari malformation

Chiari malformation is an abnormality or structural defect in the cerebellum (the lower part of the brain that controls the balance). This disorder occurs when the part of the cerebellum herniates below the foramen magnum. It is classified into three types. They are:

Chiari malformation type I: It is associated with syringomyelia (a chronic progressive disease in which longitudinal cavities are formed in the cervical region of the spinal cord).

Chiari malformation type II: In this type, the tissue protrudes into the spinal cord. It is associated with multiple abnormalities of the brain including hydrocephalus and myelomeningocele.

Chiari malformation type III: It is a severe neurological defect. In this, a portion of the lower part of the brain or the brain stem extends through an abnormal opening in the back of the skull.

The symptoms that may occur with any of the three types include:

    • Muscle weakness
    • Neck pain
    • Numbness in arm, legs, or face
    • Double or blurred vision
    • Hydrocephalus (abnormal accumulation of fluid within the brain)
    • Spinal curvature
    • Dizziness

Dermal sinus

A dermal sinus is a small deep opening in the skin overlying the spine, which is attached to the spine and spinal cord. It is usually located in the lower back, near the buttocks. The opening may lead to a tethered spinal cord or result in recurrent meningitis.


Abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain is called hydrocephalus. It may be a birth defect, or it may develop after an injury or illness. In children the symptom includes:

    • Large head circumference
    • Bulging fontanelle on the head
    • Slow development


Lipomeningocele is one of the types of neural tube defect. It occurs when the part of the spinal cord protrudes off the spinal column and forms a sac under the skin. It leads to a variety of health and developmental issues. The symptoms include:

    • Back and leg pain
    • Weak and numb legs
    • Changes in bladder and bowel control


The abnormal curvature of the spine or backbone is called as scoliosis. The curvature may progress as the child grows. The vertical line from the neck to the buttocks has C or S shape.


It is a type of birth defect involving the spinal cord. It can develop in the fetus even before the mother knows that she is pregnant. In this, there is an abnormal formation of the vertebra which may lead to herniation of the spinal cord. The defect may contain normal nerves, and spinal cord with only abnormal bones. It may also contain fat, nerves, and other tissues passing through the bony opening. Spinabifida is divided into three types:

Spina bifida occulta: A small defect in one or more backbones; least severe form and usually has no complications.

Meningocele: The membrane pokes through an open part of the spine and leads to the formation of a cyst.          

Myelomeningocele: The undeveloped spinal cord emerges through the vertebra and breaks through the skin.

The immediate symptoms of myelomeningocele and meningocele include:

  • The sac filled with fluid protruding out from the baby’s spine
  • The spinal cord and tissue may also protrude through the back

The infants and the children with meningocele or myelomeningocele spina bifida may also experience long-term symptoms such as:

    • Bowel and bladder problems
    • Frequent urinary tract infection
    • Impairment of learning abilities
    • Curvature of the spine
    • Inability to walk
    • Build up of fluid in the brain

Split cord malformation

It is a developmental abnormality in which the spinal cord splits into two longitudinal parts. These two cords are separated either by a bone or cartilage.

The symptoms include:

    • Muscle weakness
    • Neck pain
    • Numbness in arms, legs, or face
    • Double or blurred vision


Syringomyelia, also known as hydromyelia, is a rare neurological disorder in which there is a development of a fluid-filled cavity called syrinx in the spinal cord. The symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Stiffness of back, shoulders, arms, and legs
  • Pain
  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction

 Tethered cord syndrome

Tethered cord syndrome involves abnormal attachment of the spinal cord to the surrounding tissue. Babies born with the tethered spinal cord syndrome may have:

    • An unusual dimple, lump, discoloration, or patch of hair on the lower back
    • Abnormal anatomy of the genital organs
    • Abnormal anatomy of the anus
    • One leg or foot that is longer than the other


Brain and spinal cord tumors are the masses of abnormal cells in the brain and spinal cord that have grown out of control. The symptoms are:

  • Morning headache
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting
  • Vision, hearing, and speech problems
  • Loss of balance and trouble walking
  • Seizures
  • Unusual changes in personality and behavior
  • Increased head size

Seek medical advice if you notice any of the above symptoms in your child. Early treatment may correct the condition and helps your child live a healthy life.




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