Cephalic disorders are congenital conditions that stem from damage to or abnormal development of the budding nervous system. Most cephalic disorders are caused by a disturbance that occurs very early in the development of the fetal nervous system. Damage to the developing nervous system is a major cause of chronic, disabling disorders, and sometimes death in infants, children, and even adults.
Cephalic disorders may be influenced by hereditary or genetic conditions or by environmental exposures during pregnancy (e.g., medication taken by the mother, maternal infection, exposure to radiation). Some cephalic disorders occur when the cranial sutures (the fibrous joints that connect the bones of the skull) join prematurely. Understanding the normal development of the human nervous system may lead to a better understanding of cephalic disorders.
The degree to which damage to the developing nervous system harms the mind and body varies enormously. Many disabilities are mild enough to allow those afflicted to eventually function independently in society. Others are not. Some infants, children, and adults die; others remain totally disabled; and an even larger population is partially disabled, functioning well below normal capacity.
Treatments for cephalic disorders depend upon the particular type of disorder. For most cephalic disorders, treatment is only symptomatic and supportive. In some cases, anticonvulsant medications shunts, or physical therapy are appropriate.