You never want anything bad to happen to your child. Medical problems are especially scary. If your little one has been diagnosed with nerve damage, you’re probably wondering what that means for the baby and your family.
Diagnosing Nerve Damage
The first step is diagnosing the nerve damage. The damage may be evident right away in the form of partial or full paralysis. If the baby can’t move one side of the face or one limb, there may be some nerve damage. Nerve damage can happen during delivery if the doctor needs to twist or pull the baby into the proper position for delivery. The good news is that most nerve damage sustained during delivery is minor and will heal on its own within a couple of weeks.
Nerve damage may be caused by birth defects such as spina bifida and brain malformations. Spina bifida occurs when the baby’s spine doesn’t form completely and leaves part of the spinal cord exposed. In “spina bifida occulta,” the hole is covered by skin. There may be darker skin or a patch of hair over the site of the hole. This condition usually has no symptoms. Other forms of spina bifida cause the meninges and fluid to bulge out of the hole. In especially severe cases, the spinal cord itself will bulge out. These bulges are clearly visible and will require surgery.
Brain malformations may also be visible or invisible. Some types cause the child to have a very large or very small head while others will have no outward symptoms. If your child has visible symptoms, your doctor may order scans and tests to determine the cause and determine whether immediate treatment is needed.
Treatment And Care
If your child has nerve damage from trauma that doesn’t heal within a couple of weeks, you’ll need to go back in to see your doctor for further testing. The nerves may have ruptured or torn, in which case they will not heal on their own. Treatment for these more serious injuries will depend on the location and nature of the injury.
Brachial plexus injuries are the most common type of nerve damage, so we put together a whole section on it. You can check that out here.
Cranial nerve injuries are also fairly common. The cranial nerves affect the face, eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Damage to them can cause facial paralysis and various palsies (tremors and shaking). Unfortunately, the damage is often irreparable. If the ocular nerves (the ones that control the eyes) are damaged and causing an ocular palsy, an injection of botulinum toxin (Botox) into those nerves can relax them and alleviate the palsy.
Similarly, spinal cord injuries are rarely treatable. You’ll need to keep your little one as still as possible to allow any potential healing to run its course. Afterward, you’ll work with physical and occupational therapists to strengthen the baby’s muscles and determine the extent of the injury.
For serious cases of spina bifida, your little one will need surgery to return the tissue in the bulge to where it belongs. While this procedure is necessary, it’s also risky. It requires exposing the spinal cord and potentially moving it into the proper position. That can damage the cord and may increase the risk of serious infection. Children with severe spina bifida will often have serious disabilities.
Most brain malformations are untreatable. If your child has an encephalocele (a hole in the skull through which part of the brain is protruding), surgery will be necessary to put the brain back and cover the hole.
If the nerve damage is relatively mild, your baby won’t have any long-term consequences. The damage will heal completely within a few weeks. More severe damage will have long-term consequences. You’ll need to work with your child’s doctors to determine whether physical or occupational therapy are right for your baby.
The long-term prognosis for children with spina bifida depends on the severity of the case. Many children with spina bifida occulta will have no symptoms and no long-term consequences. More severe cases can cause learning disabilities, developmental delays, and physical disabilities. In some cases, physical or occupational therapy may help your child learn to manage daily tasks.
The long-term outlook for children with brain malformations depends on the type of malformation. Brain malformations can cause developmental, physical, and intellectual disabilities. They can also cause palsies and epilepsy, which may require treatment with anticonvulsant medications. Some brain malformations may be fatal.
Living With Nerve Damage
The range of possible effects from nerve damage is huge. On one end of the spectrum, minor damage may cause a tremor or weakness. On the other end, serious brain malformations can be fatal. There’s no easy answer for what to expect when your child suffers from nerve damage. You’ll need to work with your baby’s doctors and therapists to decide on a plan of treatment that meets your little one’s needs. As always, your love and support are a crucial part of any treatment.
You never want to see your child hurt, and it’s tough to bear when injuries happen. These resources can make caring for your injured child easier.
Medicare and Medicaid
All health care is expensive. Pediatric health care can be particularly pricey, especially if your little one needs to see a specialist. Medicare and Medicaid can give you the coverage you need to make sure your baby gets crucial care.
If your child is going to suffer long-term effects from nerve damage, consider filing for Social Security Disability benefits. These payments can ease the strain of medical bills and other costs.
State Disability Services
Your state’s Disability Services Office can connect you to low-cost doctors, testing facilities, medications, and medical devices. This office can also help you ensure that your child’s school has the necessary facilities and staff for your little one’s education.
This foundation offers financial support and more to the families of children with disabilities.
Search online for local communities of parents of children with disabilities. You can find parenting and care tips, advice on how to handle schools and state resources, and emotional support.