Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles.
The symptoms of CP vary from person to person. A person with severe CP might need to use special equipment to be able to walk, or might not be able to walk at all and might need lifelong care. A person with mild CP, on the other hand, might walk a little awkwardly, but might not need any special help. CP does not get worse over time, though the exact symptoms can change over a person’s lifetime.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
Doctors classify CP according to the main type of movement disorder involved. Depending on which areas of the brain are affected, one or more of the following movement disorders can occur:
- Stiff muscles (spasticity)
- Uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia)
- Poor balance and coordination (ataxia)
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
The most common type of CP is spastic CP. Spastic CP affects about 80% of people with CP.
People with spastic CP have increased muscle tone. This means their muscles are stiff and, as a result, their movements can be awkward. Spastic CP usually is described by what parts of the body are affected:
- Spastic diplegia/diparesis―In this type of CP, muscle stiffness is mainly in the legs, with the arms less affected or not affected at all. People with spastic diplegia might have difficulty walking because tight hip and leg muscles cause their legs to pull together, turn inward, and cross at the knees (also known as scissoring).
- Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis―This type of CP affects only one side of a person’s body; usually the arm is more affected than the leg.
- Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis―Spastic quadriplegia is the most severe form of spastic CP and affects all four limbs, the trunk, and the face. People with spastic quadriparesis usually cannot walk and often have other developmental disabilities such as intellectual disability; seizures; or problems with vision, hearing, or speech.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
People with dyskinetic CP have problems controlling the movement of their hands, arms, feet, and legs, making it difficult to sit and walk. The movements are uncontrollable and can be slow and writhing or rapid and jerky. Sometimes the face and tongue are affected and the person has a hard time sucking, swallowing, and talking. A person with dyskinetic CP has muscle tone that can change (varying from too tight to too loose) not only from day to day, but even during a single day.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
People with ataxic CP have problems with balance and coordination. They might be unsteady when they walk. They might have a hard time with quick movements or movements that need a lot of control, like writing. They might have a hard time controlling their hands or arms when they reach for something.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy
Some people have symptoms of more than one type of CP. The most common type of mixed CP is spastic-dyskinetic CP.
Cerebral palsy is caused by a problem with the brain that happens before, during or soon after birth. The brain can either be damaged or not develop normally, although the exact cause is not always clear.
Problems before birth
Cerebral palsy is usually caused by a problem that affects the development of a baby’s brain while it’s growing in the womb.
- damage to part of the brain called white matter, possibly as a result of a reduced blood or oxygen supply – this is known as periventricular leukomalacia (PVL)
- an infection caught by the mother – such as cytomegalovirus, rubella, chickenpox or toxoplasmosis
- a stroke – where there’s bleeding in the baby’s brain or the blood supply to their brain is cut off
- an injury to the unborn baby’s head
Problems during or after birth
Cerebral palsy can also sometimes be caused by damage to a baby’s brain during or shortly after birth.
For example, it can be due to:
- the brain temporarily not getting enough oxygen (asphyxiation) during a difficult birth
- an infection of the brain, such as meningitis
- a serious head injury
- choking or nearly drowning, resulting in the brain not getting enough oxygen
- a very low blood sugar level
- a stroke
Some things can increase a baby’s risk of being born with cerebral palsy including:
- being born prematurely (before the 37th week of pregnancy) – babies born at 32 weeks or earlier are at a particularly high risk
- having a low birthweight
- being part of a multiple birth, such as a twin or triplet
- the mother smoking, drinking a lot of alcohol, or taking drugs such as cocaine, during pregnancy
The brain disorder causing cerebral palsy doesn’t change with time, so the symptoms usually don’t worsen with age. However, as the child gets older, some symptoms might become more or less apparent. And muscle shortening and muscle rigidity can worsen if not treated aggressively.
Movement and coordination
- Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity), the most common movement disorder
- Variations in muscle tone, such as being either too stiff or too floppy
- Stiff muscles with normal reflexes (rigidity)
- Lack of balance and muscle coordination (ataxia)
- Tremors or jerky involuntary movements
- Slow, writhing movements
- Favoring one side of the body, such as only reaching with one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
- Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes, a crouched gait, a scissors-like gait with knees crossing, a wide gait or an asymmetrical gait
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes or picking up utensils
Speech and eating
- Delays in speech development
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty with sucking, chewing or eating
- Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing
- Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as sitting up or crawling
- Learning difficulties
- Intellectual disabilities
- Delayed growth, resulting in smaller size than would be expected
Damage to the brain can contribute to other neurological problems, such as:
- Seizures (epilepsy)
- Difficulty hearing
- Problems with vision and abnormal eye movements
- Abnormal touch or pain sensations
- Bladder and bowel problems, including constipation and urinary incontinence
- Mental health conditions, such as emotional disorders and behavioral problems
Generally, children born with cerebral palsy can expect to live between 30 and 70 years on average. Those with the longest life expectancies usually have more mobility, better medical care and adaptive equipment and greater autonomy and independence.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy and the condition lasts for life. However, unlike many other serious health conditions, cerebral palsy does not worsen over time. This is because the condition is caused by a one-time brain injury. Other co-mitigating factors and separate conditions not caused by the initial brain injury may impact health and life.
expectancy over time. However, the majority of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy can expect a relatively normal life expectancy.
But, Improving the emotional well-being of a child with cerebral palsy is also critical to their long term health. Group therapy is a great way for children with cerebral palsy to make friends and reduce stress. Children who participate in sports and socialize also tend to have better mental health than those who do not. Children with cerebral palsy can participate in sports with adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair or a brace. Wheelchair basketball has become very popular in recent years, and children with cerebral palsy can play with the help of adaptive tools.
Each case of cerebral palsy is unique and requires its own specific medical regimen. Parents of a child with cerebral palsy cannot compare their child’s condition directly to another’s. Your medical provider will work with you to find the most optimal treatment plan for your child.
Although cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that requires management, children diagnosed with the condition can expect to have relatively normal lifespans. However, children with cerebral palsy generally require much more medical attention than those born without the condition. Families will need a treatment plan and adequate finances to ensure that their child gets the best care possible throughout their lifetime.
Since many cases of cerebral palsy are caused by medical negligence that could have been prevented, a lawsuit can provide families with the financial assistance necessary for lifelong care
The team of service coordinators at P Homecare has extensive experience and expertise in providing care to persons with spinal cord injury, acquired brain injuries, those requiring mechanical ventilation, burns, intellectual disabilities, mental health issues, dementia, physical illnesses, and to the frail and aged. and we do cover Sydney, Northern Sydney, South Eastern Sydney, Central Coast, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Southern NSW, Hunter New England, Nepean Blue Mountains, Mid North Coast, Northern NSW, Murrumbidgee, NSW, Albury Wodonga, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Queensland (Brisbane, Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Warwick, Mackay and Townsville).
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