Sensory Birth Defects

Birth defects are problems that affect the structure or function of organs or systems in the body from birth. Birth defects can contribute to a range of physical and mental health problems and some can even prove fatal.

There are two main types of birth defect; these include:

  • Structural disorders: these disorders are caused by problems with the structure of certain parts of the body
  • Functional disorders (also known as developmental disorders): these disorders are caused by problems which affect the functioning of a system or body part.

What are sensory birth defects?

Sensory birth defects affect the development and function of the sensory organs, including the eyes and ears and can contribute to visual impairment and hearing loss; many of these problems are caused by syndromes or inherited conditions and often people with certain conditions experience problems with particular senses; some of these are listed below:

  • Congenital Rubella (German measles): this is sometimes passed on when the mother is infected with Rubella. Often, children with congenital Rubella suffer from hearing loss or deafness and have a higher risk of developing cataracts.
  • Williams syndrome: children with Williams syndrome often experience difficulties with spatial awareness and seeing spaces around objects.
  • Fragile X syndrome: children with Fragile X syndrome are often sensitive to loud noises and this can cause them to panic and behave irrationally when they hear a sudden, loud noise.
  • Ackerman syndrome: this extremely rare condition often causes glaucoma, which can result in blindness.

Examples of sensory birth defects

Common examples of sensory birth defects include:

  • Cataracts
  • Visual conditions
  • Blindness
  • Hearing loss
  • Deafness

What are the effects of sensory birth defects?

Everyone is different and some people may have much more severe symptoms than others; some people will only experience mild hearing or visual problems, while others may completely lose their sense of hearing and sight and some may be born deaf or blind. Many children do not experience health problems or intellectual impairment as a result of their visual or hearing problems, but they may contribute to problems with speech and language and delayed development.

Treating sensory birth defects

In many cases, treatment is aimed towards improving development, encouraging independence and enabling children to live a normal and fulfilling life. Children with sensory problems are often referred for treatment at a very early age; if there is no cure, professionals will use therapies such as speech therapy and learning support to help children to learn and develop.

If you have a child with a sensory defect or your child suffers from sensory problems as a result of another type of birth defect, your doctor and care team will discuss possible treatments and courses of action with you and they will then set up a treatment pathway, which will incorporate several aspects of healthcare.

Sensory Birth Defects

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