What is Cerebral Palsy?

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects as many as 500,000 children and adults each year.  What is cerebral palsy?  Cerebral palsy is the term used to describe the many disorders caused by abnormal development or damage to the brain before, during, or shortly after birth.  It is commonly seen in babies that were premature or were delivered during a complicated birth.  Mothers with infections, seizure disorders, or other serious medical problems are more likely to deliver a baby with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy presents itself in an individual in infancy or early childhood.  Usually as the brain and nervous system develops in the child, cerebral palsy can be seen and diagnosed.  Infants and children with cerebral palsy are slow to develop and reach milestones, such as rolling over, sitting up, or crawling.

As children grow older, cerebral palsy affects their muscle tone, movement, and muscle control.  Simple tasks, such as walking or bladder control, are very difficult for them.  Each individual with cerebral palsy is affected differently.  Some symptoms of cerebral palsy can be mental retardation, learning disabilities, breathing problems, deformities of the skeleton, eating and digestive problems, and hearing and vision problems.  These are common symptoms for many individuals, but all individuals with cerebral palsy are affected differently and exhibit different signs. 

What Is Cerebral Palsy:  Types of Cerebral Palsy

Like with many disorders and special needs disabilities, cerebral palsy can vary in severity.  Individuals with cerebral palsy can vary from others with cerebral palsy in intelligence, motor skills, and muscle coordination.  There are two types of cerebral palsy -- spastic and dyskinetic. 

Spastic refers to the type of cerebral palsy where the individual has increased muscle tone, which results in stiff and jerky movements.  This condition can affect just the legs in an individual or the whole body.  Dyskinetic refers to the coordination of the muscles.  Within this category, an individual can have uncontrolled movements that are slow and writhing, which is referred to as athetoid.  These movements can affect any part of the body that uses muscles, such as the face or mouth.  Within the dyskinetic category, a person can have balance and coordination problems, which is referred to as ataxic.

There are many children and adults that have a mixture of spastic and dyskinetic cerebral palsy.

While cerebral palsy is not a curable disorder, there are many things a parent can do if their child is diagnosed with it.  Early diagnosis and intervention is key.  Knowing what is cerebral palsy will allow parents to watch for early signs and get help from doctors and therapists right away.  The best news about cerebral palsy is that the condition can only get better over time, not worse. 

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Written by: Ashley Eneriz See other articles by Ashley Eneriz
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