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What Is The Treatment For Microcephaly? Options Are Limited For Now

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After the CDC announced that Zika definitely causes birth defects, the discussion about Zika and pregnancy is more prevalent than ever. The virus, which continues to spread around the world and affect more people as the days go on, will now have attention turned to it as researchers try and find the causes of the birth defects and a possible prevention for them. One of those birth defects commonly found with those affect by Zika is microcephaly. But what really is microcephaly? And most importantly, what is the treatment for microcephaly?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, microcephaly is a condition that causes newborn babies to born with a head much smaller than other babies of the same age and sex. During pregnancy, when a babies head grows, its brain grows, too. Microcephaly can occur when a baby's brain has not developed in the womb or has stopped growing after birth; therefore they have a significantly smaller sized head.

But now that we have an understanding of what it is, what is the treatment for it? Unfortunately, microcephaly is a lifelong condition and according to the CDC, there is no known cure or standard treatment for it. However, treatments vary from case to case.

Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images
RECIFE, BRAZIL - JANUARY 31: Alice Vitoria Gomes Bezerra, 3-months-old, who has microcephaly, is held by her mother Nadja Cristina Gomes Bezerra on January 31, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus outbreak is likely to spread throughout nearly all the Americas. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Babies born with mild microcephaly don't experience any other problems despite their small head size, but need routine check ups to monitor their health and growth. Babies with more severe cases need the same care and treatment as other children, in addition to early intervention with developmental services like speech and physical therapies.

There are only 25,000 children in the United States with microcephaly but as we learn more about Zika and it's effects, we learn more about microcephaly and its treatments, too. The good news is that children born with microcephaly can live close to a normal life span, but require extra attention due to their condition. Microcephaly can also be linked to seizures, which according to Stat, a medical news outlet, can reduce life expectancy in some instances. Those affected with microcephaly could also experience normal brain growth.

"About 10 to 15 percent of all babies in the U.S. with microcephaly do not have abnormal brain development," Dr. Edward McCabe, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, told CBS News recently. "They are a normal variation. It's not a birth defect."

Health officials in Brazil report that 4,000 babies have been born so far with microcephaly, and although doctors strongly believe that Zika could be to blame for it, the effects it will have on their development are still unclear.

"It's a generation of babies with disability, which is a huge social, economic, and public health problem," Dr. Angela Rocha, a Brazilian doctor told CBS News.

While treatment options are limited, hopefully as time passes and discoveries about Zika and birth defects are made, those options will become more plentiful. With the CDC openly confirming the connection between the two, we are one step closer to getting more of what we need.