9 Things to Know About Cerebral Palsy

According to the CDC, one in every thirty-three babies is born with congenital disabilities in the US each year. These congenital anomalies result from minor alterations in the gene, malformation of a structure, or an injury during labor. Many children with disabilities are diagnosed early, while it takes at least two years for problems like cerebral palsy to be identified. Cerebral Palsy is a congenital neurological disorder that affects movement and ordinary motor skills. Here are a few things you should know about cerebral palsy.

  • Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a disease that affects the brain’s cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that directs muscle coordination and muscle movement. It is a combination of many dysfunctions that affect an individual’s ability to maintain balance and posture. It is one of the most common congenital disabilities that appear in early childhood or infancy and affect the body permanently.

  • Causes

Cerebral Palsy is caused by abnormalities or injuries to the brain that hinder the brain’s ability to control body movement and muscle coordination. In most cases, the disorder develops when a child’s brain is still developing, either in the womb or during early infancy. Cerebral Palsy can result from infections or other medical complications during pregnancy, untreated jaundice in infancy, genetic disorders, or a stroke. It can also be caused by the negligence of your doctor or hospital. You can learn more about the actions you can take if your baby develops cerebral palsy because of your medical practitioner’s incompetence or negligence. It can result from problems like damage to the head or skull during childbirth. Premature babies are at a greater risk of having CP, and so are multiple births- twins and triplets.

  • Symptoms

 The symptoms of cerebral Palsy vary according to the age at which they become visible and determine the intensity of the disability and the brain area damaged. Some common symptoms include

  • Delayed development of motor skills such as rolling over, holding up the head, crawling, sitting, standing up, etc.
  • Stiff or floppy body parts
  • Cannot bring hands together
  • Prefers to be lopsided
  • Cannot stand even while holding onto a support.
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Shaking and other random involuntary movements
  • Diagnosis

In most cases, children are diagnosed by age two, but it isn’t easy to make a reliable diagnosis in mild cases. Doctors will monitor motor skills and milestones during regular visits and order lab tests in case of any risk. These include neuroimaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cranial ultrasounds, or computed tomography (CT) scans. The images can show any abnormalities in the brain, which can help diagnose the condition.

  • Types of cerebral palsy

Doctors have classified cerebral Palsy into four classes based on the extent, location, and type of a child’s abnormality.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy – Stiff muscles

It is the most common type of cerebral Palsy characterized by stiff and tight muscles and spasms. It is divided into three kinds based on which limb is affected – spastic hemiplegia, spastic diplegia, and spastic quadriplegia, which correspond to stiffness in arms and face, legs and feet, and all four limbs, respectively.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy – Writhing movements

In this type of Palsy, children have uncontrolled and slow jerky movements and writhing of limbs. In some cases, muscle hyperactivity also causes face and tongue muscles to drool, grimace or frown. Some patients also have problems controlling their breath, speaking, and hearing. Dyskinetic cerebral Palsy is further divided into athetoid, choreoathetosis, and dystonic Palsy.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – Poor balance and coordination

This kind of cerebral Palsy affects the perception of depth and balance. Patients normally walk unsteadily and have difficulty with quick and precise motions such as buttoning a shirt, writing, reaching for a book, etc.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

It refers to symptoms that cannot be categorized into a single type but are a mix of multiple types of Palsy. It is possible in a case where one limb is stiff while another is floppy. Most commonly, people have a combination of spastic cerebral palsy and dyskinetic cerebral palsy.

  • Risk factors

Several factors can occur during the baby’s developmental stage, making them prone to cerebral palsy. Some of these include;

  • Premature birth or low birth weight
  • Multiple births
  • Blood type incompatibility (Rh incompatibility)
  • Breech position
  • Complicated labor and delivery
  • Infections during pregnancy
  • Jaundice
  • Mother with abnormalities
  • Genetics
  • Seizures
  • Are there any other conditions that arise with CP?

Many potential issues can develop in addition to Cerebral Palsy. Some of these are as follows:

  • Impaired vision or hearing
  • Epilepsy
  • Speaking and learning disabilities
  • Motor disabilities
  • Spinal deformities
  • Joint problems
  • Emotional and behavioral issues
  • Seizure
  • Abnormal sensations and perceptions
  • Infections and long-term illnesses
  • Drooling and dental issues
  • Inactivity
  • Malnutrition
  • Can it be prevented?

Genetic cerebral Palsy is unavoidable. However, it can be managed or avoided in some cases, such as in the case of rubella. If a mother is vaccinated, it can reduce the child’s risk of acquiring the disease. Similarly, you can avoid acquired Palsy caused by head injuries and medical malpractice.

  • Treatment

Cerebral Palsy is incurable, but treatment improves a child’s capabilities. If properly managed, many children go very close to normal life activities. There is no one-size-fits-all procedure to help everyone in the condition when it comes to the treatment. Many techniques are adopted depending upon the type and severity of the condition and the child’s age. Drug treatments, therapy, and surgery are possible treatments. Medication helps relax stiff or overactive muscles; they may be administered orally or injected into the body.

Physical therapy helps most children adopt a healthier lifestyle. It includes physiotherapy and strength training programs to make the most out of a child’s motor abilities. Occupational therapy focuses more on upper body strength, while occupational therapy helps children improve their physical and cognitive skills and abilities by participating in art and cultural programs. Speech and language therapy helps children improve their communication skills and learn new ways other than speech to deliver their message across. It also helps them learn to swallow, breathe, and control drooling.  

Surgery is recommended in cases where the condition becomes painful for the patient. In cases where none of the treatments work, surgery is performed to cut overly active nerves at the end of the spinal cord. Assistive devices such as voice synthesizers, computers, etc., are also provided to make their life easier.

Conclusion

 The majority of conditions that cause this congenital disability cannot be prevented. However, medical practitioners can take preventive measures to minimize the risk of complications. Depending upon the severity of the condition, children and adults with cerebral palsy require additional assistance in their day-to-day lives. Treatment and therapy can improve patients’ lifestyles by helping them improve their motor skills and reflexes.

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