Cerebral Palsy

Biracial Asian Caucasian disabled boy in wheelchair smiling outdoors. He has cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that can affect a person’s posture, muscle tone, and movement. It can be caused by damage that occurs during brain development before birth.

In many cases, the symptoms and signs of cerebral palsy start during a child’s preschool years or during infancy.

Generally, cerebral palsy is associated with an impaired movement that results in rigidity or floppiness of the trunk and limbs, abnormal reflexes, involuntary movement, abnormal posture, unsteady walking, and at times a combination of all these symptoms.

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

The symptoms and signs associated with cerebral palsy can significantly vary from one person to the next. However, coordination and movement problems are the ones that are commonly observed and may include:

  • Exaggerated reflexes and stiff muscles
  • Varying tones in the muscles, which are either too floppy or too stiff
  • Rigid and stiff muscles paired with normal reflexes
  • Involuntary movements or tremors
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Delayed milestones such as sitting up, pushing up using the arms, or crawling
  • Having difficulties with walking such as a scissor-like gait with the knees crossed, an asymmetrical gait, walking on toes, or a wide gait
  • Using one side of the body more often, such as dragging one leg when crawling or reaching using one hand
  • Problems swallowing or excessive drooling
  • Difficulty eating or sucking
  • Difficulty speaking or delayed speech development
  • Learning difficulties
  • Difficulty picking up objects, buttoning clothes, and other fine motor skills

Because cerebral palsy varies widely among patients, some will feel the effects throughout their whole body, while others will only be affected on one side of the body or just on one limb.

The disorder that causes cerebral palsy doesn’t change over time, which means that its symptoms won’t usually worsen as the patient ages. As a child gets older, however, some symptoms may become less or more apparent. At the same time, muscle rigidity and muscle shortening may worsen if not treated.

Some of the brain abnormalities seen with cerebral palsy may also contribute to other problems such as:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Difficulties hearing and seeing
  • Seizures
  • Oral diseases
  • Abnormal pain or touch perceptions
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Mental health conditions

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

This disorder is caused by a disruption or abnormality in a child’s brain development, even before the child’s birth. In many of these cases, the cause is unknown. A few factors that may lead to brain development problems include:

  • Insufficient oxygen delivery to the brain related to strenuous labor
  • A genetic mutation that may lead to abnormal development of the baby
  • Fetal stroke, which is a disruption of the blood supply to the fetus’ developing brain
  • A maternal infection that may affect the fetus
  • Infant infections that can cause inflammation around or in the brain
  • A traumatic head injury to an infant from a fall or accidents
  • Bleeding into the brain as a newborn or while in the womb

Treatment for Cerebral Palsy

Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebral palsy, and treatment is all that can be done to sustain or improve a patient’s capabilities. While there’s no conventional therapy for every patient with cerebral palsy, a professional will diagnose the patient. Then a specialist will work with the patient and parents to identify specific needs impairments. The goal is to design a plan that best deals with the primary problems affecting the patient’s standard of living. Here are a few options for treating cerebral palsy:

Therapeutic Options

  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Language and speech therapy
  • Recreational therapy

Drug Treatments

  • Oral medications

Surgical Treatments

  • Surgery cut to the nerves
  • Orthopedic surgery

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

  • Stem cell therapy