What is microcephaly?
"Micro-" means small, and "-cephaly" refers to the head, so microcephaly is a small head.
A baby with microcephaly usually has a small brain, and the brain may not have formed properly
Microcephaly is rare
Microcephaly can be caused by many problems that occur in the womb, including infections, lack of oxygen, lack of proper nutrition, and birth defects of the brain
Doctors may find that the baby has microcephaly before birth when they do a routine ultrasound of the fetus
There's no cure for microcephaly, but therapy may help babies maximize their abilities
What causes microcephaly?
Causes of microcephaly include:
Infections in the mother during pregnancy, including rubella Rubella Rubella is a contagious viral infection that typically causes mild symptoms, such as joint pain and a rash, but can cause severe birth defects if the mother becomes infected with rubella during... read more and Zika virus infection Zika Virus Infection Zika virus infection almost never makes children or adults very sick. But Zika virus is very dangerous to an unborn baby (fetus). Zika can be spread by mosquitoes, sex, or blood transfusion... read more
Exposure to certain drugs or toxins before birth
Lack of oxygen before or during birth
What are the symptoms of microcephaly?
The baby has a noticeably small head. The other symptoms of microcephaly depend on how severely the brain is damaged or underdeveloped. Symptoms include:
Hearing or vision problems
Problems with movement or balance
How can doctors tell if a baby has microcephaly?
Doctors can tell if a baby has microcephaly when they do a routine ultrasound between the late 2nd and early 3rd trimester of pregnancy. If doctors suspect microcephaly once a baby is born, doctors will do:
MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more or CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more of the head
How do doctors treat microcephaly?
There's no cure or standard treatment for microcephaly. Treatment may include:
Treating the symptoms from brain damage
Early intervention, which offers therapy to babies to improve their physical and mental abilities