Information for Patients
A birth defect is a problem that happens while a baby is developing in the mother's body. Most birth defects happen during the first 3 months of pregnancy. One out of every 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect.
A birth defect may affect how the body looks, works or both. Some birth defects like cleft lip or neural tube defects are structural problems that can be easy to see. To find others, like heart defects, doctors use special tests. Birth defects can range from mild to severe. Causes can include
- Exposures to medicines or chemicals. For example, alcohol abuse can cause fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Infections during pregnancy
- Certain medicines. Before you get pregnant, talk to your health care provider about any medicines you take.
- Not getting enough of certain nutrients. For example, not getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy is a key factor in causing neural tube defects.
For most birth defects, the cause is unknown.
Health care providers can diagnose certain birth defects during pregnancy, with prenatal tests. That's why it important to get regular prenatal care. Other birth defects may not be found until after the baby is born. Sometimes the defect is obvious right away. Other times, the health care provider may not discover it until later in life.
Babies with birth defects often need special care and treatments. The treatments may include surgery, medicines, assistive devices, and therapies.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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.