Information for Patients
Most brain malformations begin long before a baby is born. Something damages the developing nervous system or causes it to develop abnormally. Sometimes it's a genetic problem. In other cases, exposure to certain medicines, infections, or radiation during pregnancy interferes with brain development. Parts of the brain may be missing, abnormally small or large, or not fully developed.
Treatment depends upon the problem. In many cases, treatment only helps with symptoms. It may include antiseizure medicines, shunts to drain fluid from the brain, and physical therapy.
There are head malformations that do not involve the brain. Craniofacial disorders are the result of abnormal growth of soft tissue and bones in the face and head. It's common for new babies to have slightly uneven heads, but parents should watch the shape of their baby's head for possible problems.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Optic Nerve Disorders
The optic nerve is a bundle of more than 1 million nerve fibers that carry visual messages. You have one connecting the back of each eye (your retina) to your brain. Damage to an optic nerve can cause vision loss. The type of vision loss and how severe it is depends on where the damage occurs. It may affect one or both eyes.
There are many different types of optic nerve disorders, including:
- Glaucoma is a group of diseases that are the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Glaucoma usually happens when the fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises and damages the optic nerve.
- Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve. Causes include infections and immune-related illnesses such as multiple sclerosis. Sometimes the cause is unknown.
- Optic nerve atrophy is damage to the optic nerve. Causes include poor blood flow to the eye, disease, trauma, or exposure to toxic substances.
- Optic nerve head drusen are pockets of protein and calcium salts that build up in the optic nerve over time
Contact your health care provider if you are having vision problems. Tests for optic nerve disorders may include eye exams, ophthalmoscopy (an examination of the back of your eye), and imaging tests. Treatment depends on which disorder that you have. With some optic nerve disorders, you may get your vision back. With others, there is no treatment, or treatment may only prevent further vision loss.
Your pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland at the base of your brain. The pituitary is the "master control gland" - it makes hormones that affect growth and the functions of other glands in the body.
With pituitary disorders, you often have too much or too little of one of your hormones. Injuries can cause pituitary disorders, but the most common cause is a pituitary tumor.
Septo-optic dysplasia Septo-optic dysplasia is a disorder of early brain development. Although its signs and symptoms vary, this condition is traditionally defined by three characteristic features: underdevelopment (hypoplasia) of the optic nerves, abnormal formation of structures along the midline of the brain, and pituitary hypoplasia.The first major feature, optic nerve hypoplasia, is the underdevelopment of the optic nerves, which carry visual information from the eyes to the brain. In affected individuals, the optic nerves are abnormally small and make fewer connections than usual between the eyes and the brain. As a result, people with optic nerve hypoplasia have impaired vision in one or both eyes. Optic nerve hypoplasia can also be associated with unusual side-to-side eye movements (nystagmus) and other eye abnormalities.The second characteristic feature of septo-optic dysplasia is the abnormal development of structures separating the right and left halves of the brain. These structures include the corpus callosum, which is a band of tissue that connects the two halves of the brain, and the septum pellucidum, which separates the fluid-filled spaces called ventricles in the brain. In the early stages of brain development, these structures may form abnormally or fail to develop at all. Depending on which structures are affected, abnormal brain development can lead to intellectual disability and other neurological problems.The third major feature of this disorder is pituitary hypoplasia. The pituitary is a gland at the base of the brain that produces several hormones. These hormones help control growth, reproduction, and other critical body functions. Underdevelopment of the pituitary can lead to a shortage (deficiency) of many essential hormones. Most commonly, pituitary hypoplasia causes growth hormone deficiency, which results in slow growth and unusually short stature. Severe cases cause panhypopituitarism, a condition in which the pituitary produces no hormones. Panhypopituitarism is associated with slow growth, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), genital abnormalities, and problems with sexual development.The signs and symptoms of septo-optic dysplasia can vary significantly. Some researchers suggest that septo-optic dysplasia should actually be considered a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder. About one-third of people diagnosed with septo-optic dysplasia have all three major features; most affected individuals have two of the major features. In rare cases, septo-optic dysplasia is associated with additional signs and symptoms, including recurrent seizures (epilepsy), delayed development, and abnormal movements.