Cerebral palsy (CP) refers to a group of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or the early childhood and permanently affect the body movement, muscle tone, posture and coordination. Cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by abnormalities inside or damage to the developing brain which disrupt the ability of our brain to control the movement and maintain posture as wells balance. The term cerebral refers to the brain; palsy refers to the loss or impairment of motor function.
What are the types of cerebral palsy?
CP is divided into four main types, depending on the movement involved.
- Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of CP that causes muscle stiffness or spasm that can cause trouble while walking, speech problems, and seizures.
Spastic CP is divided into three groups:
- Spastic diplegia – leads to muscle stiffness in the legs
- Spastic hemiplegia – affects the half side of the body
- Spastic quadriplegia – affects all four limbs, along with the torso and the face
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy can cause the muscle to either tighten or loosen. If the face or mouth muscles are impacted, it can cause speech problems, frowning, and drooling.
Dyskinetic CP is divided into three groups:
- Athetoid – twisted, slow, and curvy movements
- Choreoathetoid – aimless and uncontrolled movements
- Dystonic – muscle tone is not normal
- Ataxic cerebral palsy is an unusual type of CP that impacts coordination and balance. That can cause body shakiness, making it difficult to do tasks that require steadiness.
- Mixed cerebral palsy occurs when more than one type of symptom is present. Mostly mixed CP is a combination of spastic and dyskinetic types .
What are the symptoms related to cerebral palsy?
CP can affect the whole body, or the body may be partially affected. The symptoms usually don’t worsen with time. However, with age, symptoms might become more, or less evident.
Signs and symptoms of CP include:
- Spasticity or rigidity of muscles
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Tremors or involuntary movements
- Variations in muscle tone
- Delays in speech development
- Learning difficulties
- Difficulty with fine motor skills
CP causes muscle problems that can lead to several complications during childhood or in adulthood, including contracture, premature aging, malnutrition, mental health conditions, osteoarthritis, heart disorders, lung disease, and osteopenia.
When should you see a doctor?
It’s crucial to get an immediate diagnosis if you notice a movement disorder or delay in your child’s development. Visit a doctor if you have concerns regarding swallowing difficulties, abnormal muscle tone, impaired coordination, or developmental issues.
If the doctor or pediatrician suspects CP, he will check the signs and symptoms, monitor growth and development, review the child’s medical history, and conduct a physical examination. The doctor might recommend several tests like brain scans, electroencephalogram (EEG), blood test, urine test, or skin test.
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What are the reasons for cerebral palsy?
CP is often caused by an abnormality in brain development, when a baby is still in the mother’s womb. In some cases, doctors can’t figure out the exact cause of disrupted development.
A few factors that can lead to CP include:
- Fetal stroke
- Gene mutations
- Lack of oxygen supply to the brain
- Traumatic brain injury to an infant
What are the risk factors related to cerebral palsy?
Several risk factors increase the chance of developing CP, include:
- Maternal health: Specific infections, or toxic exposures at the time of pregnancy can greatly increase the risk of CP for the baby. Examples of infections include cytomegalovirus, German measles, herpes simplex, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, and Zika virus infection. Certain conditions, such as thyroid problems, intellectual disabilities or seizures, and exposure to toxins, also increase the risk.
- Infant illness: Illnesses in a newborn infant that can greatly increase the risk of CP include bacterial meningitis, viral encephalitis, bleeding into the brain and severe jaundice.
- Additional factors with increased CP risk include breech presentation, low birth weight, and premature birth.
What are the treatments for cerebral palsy?
Along with a pediatrician and a pediatric neurologist, children and adults with CP require long-term medical care under the supervision of a therapist and mental health specialists.
Several treatment options are available to support children with CP to live productive lives:
- Medications: Medicines that help reduce muscle tightness might be used to enhance functional abilities, treat pain, and manage complications related to spasticity or other CP symptoms.
- Injections: At times, medical experts recommend muscle or nerve injections to treat the tightening of a specific muscle. The shot is generally given every three months. The side effects of these injections include mild flu-like symptoms to more serious effects like difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
- Physical therapy. Muscle training and exercises help the child develop strength, flexibility, balance, motor development, and mobility. Supportive equipment such as braces or splints is often recommended to improve walking, and to stretch the stiff muscles.
- Occupational therapy. Occupational therapists work to help the child gain independence in daily activities and routines at home, school, and community. Therapists also recommend adaptive equipment, including walkers, electric wheelchairs, quadrupedal canes, or seating systems.
- Speech and language therapy. Speech-language pathologists train the child to speak audibly or to communicate using sign language. They also help children learn to operate communication devices, such as computer and voice synthesizers. Speech therapists can also tackle problems with eating and swallowing.
- Recreational therapy. Adaptive recreational or sports activities like swimming, dance, craft, etc. can help improve the child’s motor skills, speech, and overall well-being.
Surgical Procedures: In certain cases, surgery may be recommended to reduce spasticity or to correct related bone abnormalities. These treatments include:
- Orthopedic surgery. It is usually performed to place the deformed arms, hips, or legs in their correct positions to improve mobility, along with strengthening the muscles and tendons that are shortened by contractures.
- Cutting nerve fibers. In this procedure, the nerves connecting the spastic muscles are surgically cut to reduce pain.
Living with CP can be challenging and different for every child. There’s currently no medical treatment that can cure CP, but medications and therapies can help every child grow and develop to his or her greatest potential.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What are the tests to diagnose cerebral palsy?
Usually, signs and symptoms of CP can become evident over a period of time. The doctor might recommend a couple of tests to make a diagnosis, including:
- Brain scans. Brain-imaging technologies such as MRI scans and Cranial ultrasound can detect areas of damage or abnormal development in the brain.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG). This diagnostic test involves attaching a series of electrodes to the child’s scalp, which records the electrical activity of the brain and helps evaluate the seizure.
- Laboratory tests. Blood, urine, or skin tests can be suggested to screen for genetic or metabolic conditions.
- Additional tests. If the child is diagnosed with CP, additional tests might be recommended to detect other disorders that are often associated with the CP, such as vision, hearing, speech, intellect, etc.
- What are the measures to prevent cerebral palsy?
Generally, cases of CP can’t be prevented, but the risk can be lessened. Follow these steps to stay healthy and minimize pregnancy complications:
- Getting vaccinated against infections
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet
- Seek early and continuous prenatal care
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco
- Also, practice safety measures to prevent head injuries to the newborn
- Can cerebral palsy accelerate aging?
CP condition puts an enormous amount of strain on the body, which can intensify with age, leading to premature aging. Physical challenges such as increased spasticity, fatigue, loss of strength, and declining mobility also increase stress and anxiety levels that accelerate the aging process. Therefore, it is important to build a positive attitude and relaxation techniques to cope with the condition.