Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is not just a single disorder but a combination of disorders that affects muscle movement and coordination in children. 1 in every 323 children have cerebral palsy, and almost (75-85)% of them have spastic cerebral palsy. This contributes to muscle stiffness, followed by awkward movements, says the  Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.


Cerebral palsy (CP) refers to a group of disorders affecting muscle movement and coordination and affects vision, hearing, and sensation.


The disorder name defines itself, the word "cerebral" means having to do with the brain, and "palsy" means weakness or body movement problems.


What Is The Main Cause Of Cerebral Palsy?

As per the definition, abnormal growth of the brain or injury to the developing brain can result in Cerebral Palsy. Damage or abnormalities occurs in the brain that controls body movement, coordination, and posture.


The possibility of brain damage is mostly before birth, but it can also happen at birth or during the first years of life. Mostly, the actual cause of cerebral palsy is not exact. Here are some of the possible causes of cerebral palsy, such as:-


  • Asphyxia neonatorum (lack of sufficient oxygen supply to the brain during labor and delivery)
  • Gene mutations causing abnormal brain development
  • Severe jaundice in the infant
  • Maternal infections, like German measles and herpes simplex
  • Brain infections, such as encephalitis and meningitis
  • Intracranial hemorrhage
  • Bleeding into the brain
  • Head injuries that may occur due to a car accident, a fall, or child abuse


There are some of the factors that may put your child at an increased risk of cerebral palsy, such as:-


  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Having a twin or triplet
  • Rh incompatibility, a condition in which the mother's blood Rh type is incompatible with her baby's blood Rh type
  • Low Apgar score(determines the physical health of babies at the time of birth)
  • A breech birth occurs when your baby's buttocks or feet come out first
  • Maternal exposure to toxic substances like methylmercury during pregnancy

How Do You Know If Your Baby Has Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy symptoms vary depending on person-to-person and the severity. For example, some people with cerebral palsy face difficulty while walking and sitting, while others have trouble grasping objects.


The severity of the symptoms changes with the change in time. Additionally, they also vary depending on the part of the affected brain.


Below are some of the symptoms that usually occur when affected with cerebral palsy, such as:-


  • Difficulty in motor skill milestones, such as rolling over, sitting up alone, crawling
  • Variations in muscle tone like being too floppy or too stiff
  • Difficulty while speaking
  • Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes
  • Lack of muscle coordination(ataxia)
  • Tremors(involuntary movements)
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty while walking
  • Favoring only one side of the body, such as active with one hand or only one side of the body
  • Neurological complications, such as seizures, intellectual disabilities, and blindness


Most children are born with cerebral palsy without showing any signs of a disorder until months or years later. Symptoms usually start to appear in a child after reaching the age of 3-4 years.


Contact your doctor once you see any symptoms of cerebral palsy. Early diagnosis and treatment of cerebral palsy can help you resolve your child's symptoms.


How Do You Diagnose Cerebral Palsy?

The first step to cerebral palsy diagnosis includes taking a complete medical history, performing a physical exam, such as a detailed neurological exam, and evaluating the symptoms. Additional diagnosis for cerebral palsy are as follows:-


  • An electroencephalogram (EEG) helps to evaluate the impulse activity in the brain. The doctor may go for this evaluation if the child is showing signs of epilepsy, causing seizures.
  • MRI scan can also be suggested by the doctor in which powerful magnets and radio waves are used to produce detailed images of the brain. It will help the doctor to identify any abnormalities or injuries in the brain.
  • CT scan helps to create clear, cross-sectional images of the brain in order to reveal any brain damage.
  • The doctor can also recommend a cranial ultrasound. It is a relatively quick and inexpensive method of using high-frequency sound waves to get clear images of the brain in young infants.
  • Blood samples may be taken and tested to identify any possible conditions, such as bleeding disorders.


At the end of the diagnosis, if the doctor confirms cerebral palsy, he may refer you to a specialist who can help to resolve neurological complications linked with the disorder by detecting:-


  • Loss of vision and impairment, such as blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Loss of hearing ability
  • Difficulty while speaking
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Movement disorders


Can Cerebral Palsy Be Cured?

The motive of treatment is to improve limitations and to prevent complications by including assistive aids, medications, and surgery.


Assistive aids: Assistive equipment involves:-


  • Eyeglasses
  • Hearing aids
  • Walking aids
  • Body braces
  • Wheelchairs


Medications: Usually, the first-line treatment for cerebral palsy includes oral anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants along with:-


  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Dantrolene (Dantrium)
  • Baclofen
  • Tizanidine (Zanaflex)


The doctor may also recommend local injections of botulinum toxin type A (Botox) or intrathecal baclofen therapy, in which an implantable pump delivers the drug.


Surgery: Orthopedic surgery may also help to relieve pain, improve mobility, release tight muscles, or to correct bone abnormalities caused by spasticity.


Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) may also be suggested as the last option to reduce chronic pain or spasticity by eliminating the nerves near the spinal column base.


Other treatment: Another type of cerebral palsy treatment involves:-


  • Speech therapy
  • Counseling or psychotherapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Social services consultations


However, stem cell therapy is being explored as a potential treatment for CP, and research is still in the early stages.


Is There Any Other Condition Associated With Cerebral Palsy?

People with Cerebral Palsy may have other problems, such as:-


  • communication difficulties, including speech and language disorders
  • drooling
  • incontinence
  • spinal deformities, such as scoliosis (curvature), lordosis (saddleback), and kyphosis (humpback)
  • osteoarthritis
  • osteopenia, or poor bone density
  • Dental complications
  • contractures that occur when the muscles get locked in painful positions


How Is Cerebral Palsy Prevented?

The majority of complications that cause Cerebral Palsy cannot always be prevented. However, if you are pregnant or planning for it, try taking certain preventive measures in order to minimize complications.


Therefore, it's essential to get vaccinated against such diseases that cause fetal brain damage, such as rubella. Additionally, it's also crucial to receive adequate prenatal care. 


Frequently visiting your healthcare specialist during pregnancy can also help prevent premature birth, low birth weight, and infection.


Bottom Line

There's no cure for Cerebral Palsy, but the condition can often be treated and managed effectively. The specific type of treatment varies from person to person. Some people with CP may not need very much assistance, and others might need extensive, long-term care for their symptoms.


Regardless of the severity of the condition, treatment can improve the lives of those with CP. The following can help many people enhance their motor skills and ability to communicate:


  • assistive aids
  • medications
  • therapy
  • surgery




Tags: What is cerebral palsy, Types of cerebral palsy, What causes cerebral palsy