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5 Signs of Spina Bifida in the Elderly

Spina bifida is a congenital defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. The symptoms can vary from minor physical impairment with little functional impact to physical and mental disabilities. Sometimes the symptoms can go undetected right through to adulthood. The staff at Home Care Assistance, a trusted provider of senior care in Tuscon, has put together a list of 5 distinct symptoms seniors with spina bifida may experience.

1. Incontinence

A large percentage of seniors with spina bifida also experience bowel and bladder incontinence. These conditions occur because the signals being sent to the brain are misinterpreted or blocked by damaged nerves. Most seniors will need to consider long-term management options such as a catheter to prevent ongoing UTIs and other side effects.

2. Difficulty Swallowing

Spina bifida can affect certain valves near the brain, causing a buildup of fluid within the head. When untreated, this symptom often affects the ability to swallow and speak, and it can also cause ongoing respiratory infections. Shunt systems are medical devices that physically extract fluid from the brain to prevent inflammation.

3. Early-Onset Arthritis

Seniors who use mobility devices for spina bifida or other related disorders almost always develop early-onset arthritis. This is especially common in those who do not have a balanced diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D intake. Once the joint has been affected, most seniors must switch to powered devices such as scooters and electric wheelchairs.

4. Sores

Any senior who frequently develops unusual skin sores should immediately speak with his or her doctor about comprehensive screening. For those who have spina bifida, this is often caused by lack of circulation and sensation below the midsection. However, few treatment options will restore circulation once the nerves have been affected. Seniors and their Tucson in-home caregivers must proactively find and clean these sores to prevent infections.

5. Scoliosis and Spinal Stenosis

These two conditions can be caused by a wide variety of medical conditions, but they are very common in seniors who have spina bifida. Scoliosis is an unhealthy curving of the spine, and spinal stenosis is the tapering of the bone channel that transports spinal fluid. Most seniors who have these conditions must wear a customized back brace to straighten their spine or keep the channel open.

If your loved one’s mobility is impaired because of spina bifida or another medical condition, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our caregivers can assist your loved one with several tasks around the house and can also drive him or her to medical appointments. We also offer expert care for dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s home care Tucson families can count on. Call (520) 276-6555 to speak with a knowledgeable Care Manager and schedule a no-obligation consultation.