According to the Spina Bifida Association of America, "spina bifida occulta" (SBO) means "hidden split spine." Spina bifida comes in four recognized forms, but they all share common qualities. Treatments for each type exist but vary depending on the various circumstances.
Generally speaking, spina bifida occurs when a baby's spine does not close completely while the baby is in the uterus. While theories abound as to the defect's cause, no one knows for certain what causes it.
According to the SBAA's "Spina Bifida Overview" fact sheet published in June 2008, eight babies are born every day in the United States with some type of spina bifida. The fact sheet also states that approximately 15% of healthy Americans have SBO and do not realize it until they happen to have their back x-rayed.
SBO is considered extremely mild and often does not have symptoms, according to the SBAA. Some symptoms may include tufts of hair over the location of the ailment, possible dimples in the back over the same site, and (very rarely) redness on the skin. Mild urinary incontinence may also be present, depending on the location of the problem and its severity.
Other difficulties can be related with SBO but are generally mild if they are present at all. These problems include impeded mobility, difficulty with urinary or fecal control (the lack of the ability to "hold it"), latex allergies, obesity, skin degeneration (resulting in pressure sores), problems associated with the digestive tract, learning problems, depression, tendonitis, and sexual problems. In people with SBO, the less physical symptoms such as depression may not directly correlate to the severity of the congenital defect (for example, someone may have severe depression yet only have a mild case of SBO).
The SBAA states that "spina bifida occulta does not need to be treated." However, if side effects such as depression, incontinence, or learning disabilities are present, these problems should be treated by specialists concerned with that particular problem. A knowledgeable mental therapist, for example, will take spina bifida (of any degree) into account when considering a subject's depressed state.
If you or someone you know is diagnosed with SBO, seek the professional opinion of a medical doctor. This article is not intended to expertly diagnose or offer treatment for any disease.