Microcephaly 101

Dr. Gary Clark.

Dr. Gary Clark.

Dr. Gary Clark is the Chief of Neurology at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Q: 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.

Q: 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. Recently, some babies with microcephaly have been reported among mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.

Q: 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 United States.

Q: How is microcephaly diagnosed?

Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus.  Photo by A. Kramer.

Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. Photo by A. Kramer.

Microcephaly can be diagnosed during pregnancy with an ultrasound test or after the baby is born.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Visit westcampus.texaschildrens.org or call 832-227-1570 for more information about neurology services at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus.