What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a blanket term used to describe brain damage before, during or after birth. This brain damage is typically finite and is not contagious nor does it get worse. Impaired motor skills are often involved with CP. Cerebral Palsy is divided into four major classifications to describe different movement impairments. These classifications also reflect the areas of the brain that are damaged. The four major classifications are: spastic, ataxic, athethoid/dyskinetic and mixed.
- Spastic – is the most common type of CP resulting from an upper motor cortex lesion. Typically only some neuromuscular impairment is involved with this type of CP. 80% of all people suffering from CP have Spastic Cerebral Palsy.
- Ataxic – This type of CP often involves the cerebellum and can result in some tremors as well as issues with vision or hearing
- Athethoid/dyskinetic – people with this type of CP often have trouble standing upright and might have some degree of epilepsy
- Mixed – is some combination of the above three types.
Cerebral palsy affects about 1 in 278 children. There are about 764,000 children and adults in the United States with cerebral palsy. Each year, about 8,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Half of people with cerebral palsy use assistive devices, including braces, walkers, and wheelchairs, to help them be more mobile. About 30% of children with cerebral palsy have seizures.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy are as follows:
- Abnormal muscle tone (i.e. slouching over while sitting)
- Abnormal reflexes, or motor development and coordination
- Joint and bone deformities and contractures (permanently fixed, tight muscles and joints)
- Spasms and other involuntary movements (e.g. facial gestures)
- Unsteady gait
- Problems with balance, and/or soft tissue findings consisting largely of decreased muscle mass
- Scissor walking (where the knees come in and cross) and toe walking (which can contribute to a gait reminiscent of a marionette)
- Babies born with severe CP often have an irregular posture; their bodies may be either very floppy or very stiff
- Birth defects, such as spinal curvature, a small jawbone, or a small head sometimes occur along with CP
- CP classically becomes evident when the baby reaches the developmental stage at six and a half to 9 months and is starting to mobilize, where preferential use of limbs, asymmetry or gross motor developmental delay is seen. Sometimes though, CP is not observed until later in life.
Secondary conditions can include:
- Dysarthria or other communication disorders
- Eating problems
- Sensory impairments
- Mental retardation
- Learning disabilities
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence and/or behavioral disorders.
- Speech and language disorders