Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a set of neurological conditions that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills. It can also affect vision, speech, hearing and learning. Damage to the developing brain causes this non progressive disorder. Even though the damage to the brain won’t get worse, the effects of it may get worse over a long period of life. Most of the cerebral palsy cases are reported to be congenital. It is often diagnosed at a young age. Even though cerebral palsy cannot be cured, proper treatment at an early stage can help the children with cerebral palsy improve the quality of life. Upbringing a child with cerebral palsy can be tough. A proper awareness about this disorder can help you provide better care for your child.

There are three types of cerebral palsy- spastic cerebral palsy (characterized by stiffness and movement difficulties), athetoid cerebral palsy (results in involuntary and uncontrolled movements) and ataxic cerebral palsy (leads to trouble with sense of balance and depth perception).

Causes:

It is difficult to pin point the exact cause of cerebral palsy. Cerebrum is the brain area that controls muscle movements. Thus damage to cerebrum will result in cerebral palsy. Cerebrum controls memory, ability to learn, and communication skills. That is why some children with cerebral palsy exhibit problems with learning and communication. Other causes of cerebral palsy are,

  • Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL): The term indicates damage to the brain's white matter. Lack of sufficient oxygen, having serious infections/ low blood pressure during pregnancy may lead to this condition.
  • Problems during pregnancy: Perinatal stroke may result in CP.
  • Premature babies have a high risk of CP
  • Brain damage in early childhood

Symptoms:

  • Problems with body movement and posture
  • Developmental delay
  • Speech language disorders

Diagnosis:

Consult a pediatrician/ developmental/ neurological specialist who would do a detailed study of the child’s history and identify developmental delays or problems with muscle function if there are any. It is difficult to diagnose CP until the child shows a delay in normal developmental milestones.

Prevention:

Ensure a healthy pregnancy. Make sure that you are fit before you get pregnant.

Treatment:

Physical therapy, medication, surgery, and special aids such as a walker can help the children with CP. In 2004, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the cost of raising a person with cerebral palsy at $921,000.