What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is a disorder that affects movement, muscle tone and motor skills which is the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way. It is a disorder that can lead to other health issues and can affect sight, hearing, and speech, and may lead to learning disabilities.
CP is usually caused by brain damage that occurs before or during a child's birth, or during the first 3 to 5 years of a child's life. There is no cure for CP, but treatment, therapy, special equipment, and, in some cases, surgery can help improve a child’s quality of life who suffers from CP.
There are three types of Cerebral Palsy:
Spastic Cerebral Palsy: Stiffness and movement difficulties
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy: Involuntary and uncontrolled movements
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: Disturbed sense of balance and depth perception
For those who suffer from Cerebral Palsy even simple movements, such as standing still, can be difficult. Other vital functions that also require motor skills and muscles — such as breathing, bladder and bowel control, eating, and learning — are also sometimes affected when a child has CP. Cerebral Palsy does not get worse over time.
The exact cause for many cases of Cerebral Palsy is often unknown, but it is often the result of problems during pregnancy in which the brain is either damaged or doesn't develop correctly. This can be due to infections, maternal health problems, or something else that interferes with normal brain development. Problems during labor and delivery can also cause CP in some cases.
Premature babies, especially those who weigh less than 3.3 pounds, have a higher risk of CP than babies that are carried full-term, as are other low birth weight babies and multiple births, such as twins and triplets.
Brain damage in infancy or early childhood can also lead to CP. A baby or toddler might suffer brain damage because of lead poisoning, bacterial meningitis, malnutrition, being shaken as an infant (shaken baby syndrome), or being in a car accident.
If a child is known to be at risk, either because they were premature, underweight or contracted meningitis, then doctors will follow their progress closely and CP can be diagnosed at an early stage. However, in a baby that is carried to term with no other obvious risk factors for CP, it can be difficult to diagnose the disorder. Often doctors aren't able to diagnose CP until they see a delay in normal developmental milestones (such as reaching for toys by 4 months or sitting up by 7 months), which can be a sign of CP.
Underdeveloped muscle tone, poorly coordinated movements, and the persistence of infant reflexes beyond the age at which they are expected to disappear also can be signs. If these developmental milestones are only mildly delayed, the diagnosis of CP may not be made until the child is a toddler.