The term cerebral palsy refers to a group of different conditions that affect one’s motor skills. The word cerebral refers to the brain, which is where the disease affects people. The term palsy refers to how the disease has an effect on physical movement. There are many different types of cerebral palsy, and each sub-type effects the patient in different ways. This problem typically has an impact on developing brains, so it usually occurs either during pregnancy, childbirth, or at a very early age during the developmental years. This disease can have a profound impact on children and parents who must deal with its many setbacks and difficulties, and a complete cure is still not known.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is one of the most common genetic disorders affecting children worldwide. It takes a toll on motor skills and movement, and can cause muscle spasms, seizures, and these problems are often a result of the mild brain damage that is part of cerebral palsy. There are three basic types of the disease: spastic, athetoid, and ataxic. Each type has its own definitive set of symptoms, and helps doctors classify which type the child is suffering from. There is no one known cause of cerebral palsy, but research is constantly being done to help determine how to prevent it.
- Basics of Cerebral Palsy – A good description of what the disease is, the different types and symptoms.
- Information Page – A helpful website with informative facts and resources about cerebral palsy.
- Definition – The definition of cerebral palsy as well as more information about the disease and its different types.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Most physicians conclude that cerebral palsy is caused by some kind of brain damage, usually occurring in an unborn child during the pregnancy stages. There is no one single origin of the disease, and there are different factors that can lead to its occurrence. Some children may suffer from it as a result of injury to the brain later in life, while others may become diagnosed after certain bacterial infections occur such as spinal meningitis. If a pregnant woman is addicted to drugs or alcohol, this can also sometimes result in the child having cerebral palsy at birth. Premature births can be another suspected cause. The two main causes are either injury or infection, but there are also other factors that can come into play.
- Causes/Facts – More information about common causes, as well as some statistics.
- Mayo Clinic – This Mayo Clinic page discusses the various possible causes of cerebral palsy.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
There are many different symptoms associated with cerebral palsy. If a child is very young, it can sometimes take a year or more to diagnose. Motor skills are the most affected, and patients may have a difficult time moving, walking, or even standing up. Uncontrollable shaking or jerking of the limbs is common. Weak muscles, difficulty moving from one side to the other, and problems sucking (particularly with babies) are other symptoms. Sadly, the disease can have a negative effect on children’s every day life such as riding a bike, kicking or throwing a ball, and many other common movements that require the use of arms and legs. A specialist can better diagnose any problems that parents notice with their children’s motor skills to determine whether or not it is cerebral palsy.
- Signs & Symptoms – Some telltale signs that a child may have cerebral palsy.
- More Symptoms – More on signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy.
- What to Look For – This page contains a list of signs parents should be on the lookout for.
Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy
Doctors take a close look at several different things when determining whether or not a child has cerebral palsy. They will conduct a series of simple motor skills tests first to determine if there are any warning signs. Reflexes are checked, as well as eye movements. Most pediatricians will also look at the child’s family history, and check to see if the mother experienced any kind of trauma or injury while pregnant. A CT, MRI, and/or EEG can also be performed in order to get more detail of the child’s brain. All or some of these tests may be used to determine if there is any damage or to view brain patters. Vision, intelligence, and hand preference tests are some other common diagnostic tools.
- Making a Diagnosis – This website explains how doctors can help make a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
- Early Diagnosis – An article explaining how doctors and parents can make an early diagnosis.
- Diagnosis in Preemies – Information about the diagnosis of cerebral palsy in premature babies.
Treatments For Cerebral Palsy
Since there is currently no known cure for cerebral palsy, doctors attempt to make life as easy as possible for the patient and his or her parents. Physical therapy is the most common form of treatment. Prescription medication is also given to the patient to help ease muscle spasms and seizures. Something called “suit therapy” is often used to help as well. This treatment involves the patient wearing a suit fitted with weights, designed to help improve muscle strength. Other more common treatments include adjusting the patient’s diet to avoid foods that may trigger muscle spasms, aquatherapy (uses water to help improve muscle function), and even stem cell therapy. All types of treatment are designed to help patients improve their muscle function, strength, and motor skills.
- NAPA Center – This organization is dedicated to different types of therapy for cerebral palsy.
- Physical Therapy – An article that discusses the effects of physical therapy on cerebral palsy.
- Robotic Therapy – Robotic therapy is now being tested and used for some patients; find out more information here.
Caring For A Child With Cerebral Palsy
It can be very difficult at times for parents who are caring for a child with cerebral palsy. Fortunately, there are ways to make life easier for both the parents and the child. Support groups are also available so parents can talk with others who are dealing with the same issues. Often, parents will seek out any help they can find to make life less difficult for their child. Exploring all avenues of therapy is suggested, so that a decision can be made to determine which method works best. Daily living therapy as well as vision and physical therapy all help to make the process of day to day living less strenuous. Medication and even surgery are also avenues that some parents may also consider. Every child is different, so not all treatments fit all children. Financial assistance is often available for families dealing with cerebral palsy.
- Caring for a Child – How to care for a child with cerebral palsy.
- Caring for Cerebral Palsy – This site is an in-depth guide for parents to help them with every day tasks such as eating, dental issues, nutrition, play, and more.
- Advice – Some advice and tips for parents and caregivers of children with cerebral palsy.