Spina bifida is a condition that occurs when an embryo has a part of the spine that doesn’t close up. In some people, the area that doesn’t close up is very small, but in other people, the area is several vertebrae, and there can be complications that can make it more difficult to do everyday activities, live a normal life, and go to a regular job. Anyone who has spina bifida or has a loved one with spina bifida should know about their options in terms of getting financial disability benefits. The Social Security Administration has a list of criteria that applicants need to meet in order to gain disability benefits, but it is possible for many people with spina bifida to receive them.
What is Spina Bifida
When a fetus has a spinal cord that doesn’t completely form properly, it’s a called spina bifida. In most pregnancies, the neural tube forms in the first month of pregnancy and closes by 28 days after conception. Embryos with spina bifida have a neural tube that doesn’t close completely, which causes defects with the spinal cord and the bones in the spine.
There are both mild and severe cases of spina bifida, and the degree to which its harmful is dependent on the size and the location of the under-formed spinal cord and vertebrate. There are two basic types of spina bifida. The mild version is called spina bifida occulta. This type of spina bifida is actually hidden, and many people don’t even know that they have it until they get a scan of the portion of their spine. The other type of spina bifida is called myelomeningocele, otherwise known as open spina bifida because the spinal canal is exposed to the outside of the body on several parts of the spine. This is the more severe form because tissue and nerves are often exposed, and this can even threaten the baby’s life.
No one knows for sure what causes spina bifida, but it’s believed that it’s the result of a combination of genetic factors, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental risks. One of the biggest risk factors for an embryo to develop spina bifida is a deficiency of folate in the mother. Additionally, if the mother or father has a history of neural tube defects in their family or has another child that has a neural tube defect, the child that the woman is pregnant with also is at an increased risk. Some antiseizure medications might also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb folic acid, which could result in a fetus with spina bifida. Finally, women who are obese, have diabetes, or have a higher body temperature are at higher risk of having a child with spina bifida.
Symptoms of Spina Bifida
The symptoms present in a newborn with spina bifida occulta are usually nonexistent, but there might be a sign that there is a spinal defect in a certain area. For instance, there might be a dimple, birthmark, or a small tuft of hair.
Unfortunately, the more severe type of spina bifida, open spina bifida, will have an area where the spinal canal remains open. This area is usually in the lower or middle back. Additionally, the spinal cord or nerves and the membranes will stick out of the spine at birth. This will be in the form of a sack. Usually, tissues and nerves will be exposed, with only a thin covering of skin.
People who have open spina bifida are likely to have several complications. For instance, some people might experience difficulties with their mobility, most notably, with their walking. Additionally, some children might have problems with their legs and spine because of the weakness of their muscles. For instance, scoliosis, dislocations of the hip, and muscle contractions are also possibilities. Some people might also begin to have problems with their bowel and bladder because the nerves aren’t working properly.
Some people might also get fluid on the brain, which is called hydrocephalus. It’s also possible for people to get infections around the brain, including meningitis. One potential complication is a tethered spinal cord, which is when the nerves bind to the scar where the surgery to close the defect was. Skin problems, a latex allergy, and sleep-disordered breathing are also potential complications. Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are other possibilities.
Treatment for Spina Bifida
There are several treatments for babies and even fetuses still in the womb. For instance, it’s possible to perform fetal surgery before the baby is even born. In some cases, this is a preferable option because the spina bifida can often get worse after birth. Additionally, many babies with spina bifida will need to be born via cesarean because the baby is more likely to be in breach position, which isn’t the safest birth.
Additionally, some babies will receive surgery after birth. Again, doing the surgery earlier is better because it can minimize the risk of infection and it can protect the spinal cord from undergoing more potential injury.
Some children might also need treatment for the complications associated with their spina bifida. For instance, some people might need walking aids or other types of mobility devices. For instance, some children and adults will need walkers or wheelchairs. Typically, some type of therapy will start with children fairly young to get them ready to walk with crutches or braces.
Some people also need help managing their bladder and bowel movements. For instance, they might have surgery, suppositories, and other types of oral medications. For managing the bladder, they might need a catheter or surgery.
Because hydrocephalus is somewhat common in people with spina bifida, many babies and young children will get a shunt to get rid of the fluid that’s collecting around their brains. Some children and adults will also need special equipment to help them do everyday activities.
Disability Benefits for Spina Bifida
Because spina bifida can have some very serious complications that can make it difficult or impossible to do many types of jobs, anyone who has this condition or has a loved one with the condition should know about what kinds of financial benefits are available. While there isn’t a listing in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book for spina bifida, there are several listings that people with spina bifida might actually fall under. For instance, the listings for spinal stenosis, disorders of the spine, neurological disorders, intellectual deficits, diabetes, disorders of the spine, children with emotional or developmental disorders are oral possible categories that someone with spina bifida might fall under.
Additionally, if a person still does not qualify under any of the previously listed categories in the Blue Book, they can also apply for a medical-vocational allowance using the residual-functional capacity test. This test takes a look at all of the jobs that a person has done in the past and compares them to the limitations that their doctor lists. It also looks at the person’s ability to hold a job. If there isn’t a job that the applicant could do, there’s a very good chance that they will receive benefits.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Spina Bifida, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.