Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder caused by malformation or damage to the brain, which can occur before or during delivery, or in the first two years of life. CP mainly affects the body movement and muscle coordination. Recent research in the United States based on their population reports that 4 children in 1000 are diagnosed with CP.
Amongst the causes of occurring before birth are:
- infections during pregnancy like rubella (German measles)
- insufficient oxygen reaching the fetus due to placenta not functioning properly.
Lack of oxygen reaching the baby during delivery is another cause occurring in fewer than 10% of cases.
While causes occurring in the first months or years of life, include:
- head injuries.
Cerebral Palsy is not a disease or illness and it is not progressive, in that the injuries to the brain do not worsen. However, the effects of the cerebral palsy may become more noticeable as the child grows and the limitations in his/her movement are more noticeable.
Because a child has cerebral palsy, this does not mean he/she can’t achieve in life. Some children may need more support than others
There are some early signs that indicate a child could have cerebral palsy such as:
- The baby feels floppy when being picked up
- Muscles feel stiff or spastic
- Feeding and swallowing difficulties
- The baby is unable to hold head up while lying on stomach or when in supported sitting
- Consistently uses or moves one side of the body only
- Not reaching developmental milestones on time, for example: can’t roll over or sit up independently by six months
Diagnosis of CP in full term babies is mostly established between 6 months to 18 months old. However, since signs are not always visible at birth or in early months diagnosis may be delayed. Some of the very mild cases may be diagnosed as late as 5 years old.
Each child presents differently, depending on the area of the brain affected and the severity of the injury. This is reflected in the type of CP (as related to muscle tone), the parts of body affected, and severity of the condition.
Accordingly, the child could be diagnosed as floppy (with low muscle tone leading to very weak muscles) or spastic (with high muscle tone, leading to stiffness). The severity could range from mild, to moderate and severe, while the body parts affected may follow any of the following distributions:
- Quadriplegia: total body involvement, but upper extremities usually more affected than lower..
- Diplegia: lower limbs mostly affected. Trunk may also be affected.
- Hemiplegia: one side of the body is affected.
- Monoplegia: one limb is affected.
Cerebral Palsy is not a disease or illness and it is not progressive, in that the injuries to the brain do not worsen
Some of the associated medical conditions that are common with CP include:
- Hearing or vision impairments
- Decreased bladder control
- Respiratory complications
- Speech impairment
- Cognitive impairment
Although cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition, there are many interventions that can help reduce its impact and improve the quality of life. Therapeutic, psychological and medical interventions are available depending on symptoms and severity of condition.
Because a child has cerebral palsy, this does not mean he/she can’t achieve in life. Some children may need more support than others, but many can go to school/university, work, drive, play sports and have a family. Success stories of individuals with cerebral palsy who excelled in athletics, arts, businesses....etc are plenty.
"Though Cerebral Palsy can be defined, having Cerebral Palsy does not define the person that has the condition". www.cerebralpalsy.org