The primary symptom of encephalocele is a bulging sac anywhere along the cranial cavity or spinal column, but other possible symptoms include intellectual disability, growth delays, vision impairment, seizures and poor coordination, explains the National Organization for Rare Disorders. The condition can also cause hydrocephalus, in which cerebro-spinal fluid exerts excess pressure on the brain. The bulging sac caused by encephalocele is usually evident at birth, but other symptoms of the condition may become evident over time.
The symptoms of encephalocele vary from person to person and depend in large part on the location of the malformation, notes the National Organization for Rare Disorders. The most common locations are at the lower back portion of the skull and the upper portion of the forehead. When the encephaocele is in the lower back portion of the skull, it is likely to contain brain matter within the sac and cause a large amount of neurological problems. When it is on the forehead, it is less likely to contain brain matter, and the outlook for the person with encephalocele is better.
The bulge of encephalocele can be a simple bulge or can be a bulge at the end of a stalk, says the National Organization for Rare Disorders. In rare cases, it can be so subtle that it is not noticed. In all cases, it arises from a developmental problem known as a neural tube defect.