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
Isolated congenital asplenia Isolated congenital asplenia is a condition in which affected individuals are missing their spleen (asplenia) but have no other developmental abnormalities. While most individuals with this condition have no spleen at all, some people have a very small, nonfunctional spleen (hyposplenism).The spleen plays an important role in the immune system. This organ is part of the lymphatic system, which produces and transports fluids and immune cells throughout the body. The spleen produces certain immune system cells called phagocytes that help remove bacteria from the blood in order to prevent infections. The spleen also stores particular blood cells that fight foreign invaders until they are needed and filters old blood cells for removal. Because people with isolated congenital asplenia lack these immune functions, they are highly susceptible to bacterial infections.People with isolated congenital asplenia are prone to developing severe, recurrent infections. Infections most commonly affect the whole body (sepsis), the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), or the ears (otitis media). Infections are most often caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.Without preventative care and proper treatment, the frequent infections caused by isolated congenital asplenia can be life-threatening.