What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a serious disease that usually occurs as a result of brain damage during childbirth and can cause movement, muscle or posture disorder. In the womb the baby’s brain does not develop normally; Cerebral palsy is a form of brain paralysis caused by damage during or immediately after birth.
The exact cause is unknown but it is caused by abnormalities that disrupt the brain’s ability to control movement and maintain balance. Initial symptoms may occur in infancy or preschool. Patients with cerebral palsy can have swallowing problems, unbalanced focus on the eyes, involuntary movements, impaired movement, mental retardation, epilepsy, blindness or deafness. There is no definitive treatment; however, patient’s ability to move and communicate can be improved through supportive therapies, medications, and surgery.
Cerebral Palsy Causes
In most cases, the exact cause is unknown, but it is usually caused by damage to the motor cortex, which is the part of the brain that affects muscle control and coordination. The brain disorder doesn’t change over time and doesn’t get worse with age.
Causes of CP disease before and during childbirth:
- Damage to the white matter of the brain
- Abnormalities in the normal growth process of the brain (infections, fever, trauma, gene mutations)
- Bleeding in the brain (clotting problems, abnormal blood vessels, heart defects, sickle cell disease etc.)
- Lack of oxygen in the brain (very low blood pressure in the mother, torn uterus, separation of the placenta, problems with the umbilical cord or severe trauma to the baby’s head during childbirth)
- Baby’s inability to get enough oxygen during childbirth (suffocation-asphyxia)
- Reduction in blood and oxygen to support the developing brain-fetal stroke
- Medical misapplication
- Infections such as meningitis or encephalitis
- Stroke related to blood flow to the brain
- Premature birth
- Head trauma as a result of motor vehicle accident or fall
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
- Delays in the child’s motor skills such as sitting, standing, crawling and walking
- Weak arms, legs
- Tremors or involuntary, uncontrolled movements
- Walking on your toes
- Swallowing problems
- Learning-speech difficulties
- Muscles are too stiff or saggy
- Difficulty in movements such as writing or buttoning a shirt
- Exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
- Lack of muscle coordination (ataxia)
- Using one side of the body, such as reaching with one hand or dragging a leg
- Vision-hearing difficulty
- Abnormal touch perception, pain
Cerebral Palsy Treatments
There is no definitive treatment for cerebral palsy. The aim of treatment is to prevent complications. Children and adults with disease need long-term treatment with a medical care team.
Pediatrician: Makes a healing plan and supervises medical care.
Pediatric neurologist: A doctor trained for the diagnosis and treatment of children with brain and nervous system disorders. It may be involved to oversee the care and treatment of children with cerebral palsy.
Orthopedist: An orthopedist, trained to treat muscle and bone disorders, helps diagnose and treat muscle problems.
Physiotherapist: Helps children with cerebral palsy strengthen their muscles, improve their walking ability, the maximum range of movement and physical ability.
Occupational therapist: Provides support to teach children to develop self-care skills and to teach them how to use adaptive products to help with daily activities.
Language and speech therapist: Provides support training to children with speech and swallowing problems.
Special education teacher: Helps children develop age-appropriate behaviors and social skills.