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Birth Defect

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Introduction

A person can be born without limbs due to a Birth Defect, or they can lose their limbs as a result of an injury or accident, or though amputation because of a diseases like sugar diabetes, cancerous Tumor or inadequate blood flow. This is referred to as "Upper and lower limb reduction." These defects occur when a part of or the entire arm (upper limb) or leg (lower limb) of a fetus fails to form completely during pregnancy. It is referred to this because a limb is reduced from its normal size or is missing.

Causes

The cause of limb reduction defects is unknown. However, research has shown that certain behaviors or exposures during pregnancy can increase the risk of having a baby with a limb reduction defect.

These include:

  • Exposure of the mother to certain chemicals or viruses while she is pregnant
  • Exposure of the mother to certain medications
  • Possible exposure of the mother to tobacco smoking (although more research is needed)

CDC works with many researchers to study risk factors that can increase the chance of having a baby with limb reduction defects, as well as outcomes of babies with the defect. Following are examples of what this research has found:

  • A woman taking multivitamins before she gets pregnant might decrease her risk for having a baby with limb reduction defects, although more research is needed.
  • Certain sets of limb reduction defects might be associated with other birth defects, such as heart defects, omphalocele, and gastroschisis.

Problems that children with limb reduction defects have

Babies and children with limb reduction defects will face various issues and difficulties, but the extent of these will depend on the location and size of the reduction. Some potential difficulties and problems include:

  • Difficulties with normal development such as motor skills
  • Needing assistance with daily activities such as self-care
  • Limitations with certain movements, sports, or activities
  • Potential emotional and social issues because of physical appearance

Treatment

Specific treatment for limb reduction defects will be determined by the child's doctor, based on things like the child’s age, the extent and type of defect, and the child’s tolerance for certain medications, procedures, and therapies.

The overall goal for treatment of limb reduction defects is to provide the child with a limb that has proper function and appearance. Treatment can vary for each child. Potential treatments include:

  • Prosthetics (artificial limbs)
  • Orthotics (splints or braces)
  • Surgery
  • Rehabilitation (physical or occupational therapy)

It is important to remember that some babies and children with limb reductions will have some difficulties and limitations throughout life, but with proper treatment and care they can live long, healthy, and productive lives.

Can these defects be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent this type of defect, but some of the problems experienced later in life by a person born with a limb reduction defect can be prevented or screened if the defect is treated early.

Even so, mothers can take steps before and during pregnancy to have a healthy pregnancy. Steps include taking a daily multivitamin with folic acid (400 micrograms), not smoking, and not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

 

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