Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during labor or delivery (though it can occur shortly after birth as well).
Cerebral Palsy is not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves, but instead by malformation or damage to the motor areas of the brain. This damage disrupts the brain signals which control muscle movement, resulting in physical disability.
“Cerebral” refers to the brain, and “palsy” refers to muscle weakness/poor control.
There are 4 main types of cerebral palsy, but there are quite a few specific classifications.
- Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common. Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by stiff muscles and jerky movement.
- Athetoid cerebral palsy makes a person have involuntary, uncontrolled movements.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy mainly affects balance and a person’s sense of perception.
- Mixed cerebral palsy is a mixture of 1 or more types.
Read more about the different types of cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the developing brain. The brain damage can occur before, during, or after birth.
Brain damage caused while the fetus is still in the womb could occur from an infection the mother sustained while pregnant, lack of oxygen during delivery, abuse of alcohol or drugs, poor nutrition, or any number of other factors.
After birth, brain damage causing cerebral palsy could occur from a head injury, viral infection or other types of trauma.
Most people with cerebral palsy have very stiff muscles that impede their movement. Symptoms can be very mild to very severe. Each person with cerebral palsy has different symptoms to a different degree. Some people move about easily while others are almost totally immobile.
People with cerebral palsy may have a hard time doing anything requiring muscular control. Walking, talking, eating, or reaching for objects can be difficult. Sometimes people with cerebral palsy can’t control their movements. The symptoms a person with cerebral palsy has depends on the type and severity of their disorder.
Cerebral palsy is diagnosed when a child fails to meet developmental milestones. A parent or caregiver is usually first to suspect developmental delays. Doctors run a series of tests to see what developmental problems a child is experiencing. If certain delays match those generally recognized in cerebral palsy children, a diagnosis of cerebral palsy is made.
Unfortunately, cerebral palsy is not a curable condition. Cerebral palsy is not a sickness or disease; it is a disorder caused by irreversible damage to the developing brain.
While there is no cure, there are sever treatment options available which could provide relief, comfort, and mobility.
Cerebral palsy is not a progressive disorder. Symptoms of cerebral palsy remain the same throughout a person’s lifetime. If a person is afflicted with severe cerebral palsy symptoms, sometimes they get worse over time—especially if symptoms are left untreated.
No, cerebral palsy is not contagious. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder, not a disease, and cannot be passed from one person to another. Close proximity to a person with cerebral palsy is not harmful. There is no need to be cautious or fearful of people with cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy statistics show almost half a million people are affected with cerebral palsy in the United States. Each year about 5-10,000 new cases of cerebral palsy are diagnosed.
The symptoms of cerebral palsy can be managed by various types of treatments. Even though cerebral palsy can’t be cured, many steps can be taken to help increase quality of life.
Drugs and surgery help release muscle tenseness. Assistive technology makes it easier for people with cerebral palsy to move around. Occupational therapy is useful in helping people with cerebral palsy to learn how to care for themselves as much as possible.
It depends on how severely a person is affected by cerebral palsy, however education is extremely important. Most children with cerebral palsy go to school just like any other kid. Many are enrolled in public schools and participate in classes with non-disabled children. Some children with cerebral palsy go to special schools that focus on kids with disabilities, and many children with cerebral palsy have cognitive disabilities which require special education classes. Surprisingly though, many children with CP have normal or superior intelligence!
Birth injury claims are among the options that parents have when their child has suffered some sort of an injury that the family believes was due to medical malpractice during pregnancy or birth.
Click here to read about the process of bringing a cerebral palsy claim or lawsuit.
The condition known as Erb’s Palsy has symptoms that some may think are similar to cerebral palsy, but the condition is not caused by any type of brain injury or abnormality. As opposed to cerebral palsy, the cause of this condition is an injury to the nerves that surround the shoulder (brachial plexus).