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Microcephaly has a variety of causes. Knowing the cause is important in predicting what symptoms a child with microcephaly will have. For example, some forms of microcephaly are associated with severe developmental delay or a high risk for seizures, while others are not. Some forms can impair motor function or affect other organs in the body. Microcephaly linked to prenatal infections such as Zika sometimes comes with vision and hearing problems.
Microcephaly is often (but not always) congenital, meaning it is already present at birth. In other cases, a baby may be born with an apparently normal head size, and doesn’t begin showing signs until his first few weeks or even first few months of life.
Causes of congenital microcephaly (microcephaly present at birth) include:
Causes of microcephaly with onset during infancy include:
The main symptom of microcephaly is a head size that is much smaller than normal for the child’s age and gender.
Other symptoms can vary widely from child to child. They might include:
Not every child with microcephaly will display noticeable symptoms beyond a small head size. Some children have normal intelligence and can do everything their peers can. However, many children with the condition experience:
If the brain stem is affected, problems could be more serious, because the brain stem controls vital functions such as breathing. In addition, sometimes microcephaly is accompanied by other medical problems such as:
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”