What is Cerebral Palsy?

Dr Foram Bhuta

Dr Foram Bhuta

BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery), 10 years of experience

November 27, 2021 Brain Diseases 618 Views

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What is the meaning of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect muscle movement, along with muscle tone or posture. This disorder is usually caused by an injury to the brain, most often before birth. ‘Cerebral’ means involvement of the brain, and ‘palsy’ means weakness or problems with using the muscles.

Symptoms of this disorder usually appear in young children. Usually, children with cerebral palsy show more than two symptoms, such as muscle weakness, floppiness of the limbs or abnormal body structure, etc. In some children, the symptoms reach a critical stage if the treatment is not started at the right time. 

Treatment for cerebral palsy is not available for children below three years of age, but children older than three years can be treated. 

According to some researchers, among 2000 children over three years of age, 1 or 2 children are affected by cerebral palsy. Besides, one adult among one lakh population may suffer from this disorder. Let me tell you, children suffering from this disorder cannot move their limbs and sit. Some children may have intellectual disabilities. Also, the affected children have trouble swallowing food and difficulty speaking. 

In today’s article, we will be discussing in detail cerebral palsy. 

  • What are the different types of Cerebral Palsy?
  • What are the causes of Cerebral Palsy? 
  • What are the risk factors of Cerebral Palsy?
  • What are the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?
  • How to diagnose Cerebral Palsy?
  • What are the treatments of Cerebral Palsy? 
  • What are the complications of Cerebral Palsy?
  • How to prevent Cerebral Palsy?

What are the different types of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy can be classified according to the parts of the body that are affected, and the movement disorder that is most prominent.

The different types of cerebral palsy based on the different movement disorders due to damage to different parts of the brain include:

Spastic cerebral palsy:

  • This type of cerebral palsy accounts for almost 75% of all cerebral palsy cases.
  • The symptoms of spastic cerebral palsy include tight, stiff muscles that contract uncontrollably.
  • Different movements like talking and walking may appear jerky due to muscle stiffness (spasticity).

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy:

  • It is also known as athetoid cerebral palsy.
  • This type of cerebral palsy leads to irregular movements in the face, tongue, and limbs.
  • The movements may be slow and smooth, or jerky and quick. It may appear like the affected person is twisted or writhing. These movements are more severe when the person is active.
  • Individuals having dyskinetic cerebral palsy may have trouble swallowing their saliva and may drool.

Ataxic cerebral palsy:

  • This type of cerebral palsy leads to problems with depth perception, balance, and coordination.
  • It may be hard for people suffering from this disorder to walk or stand without falling or swaying.
  • Children suffering from ataxic cerebral palsy often walk with their feet spread wide apart and may appear to be shaking while moving.

Mixed type:

  • The damage to more than one area of the brain causes many symptoms at once.
  • An individual with mixed cerebral palsy has a combination of symptoms associated with spastic, dyskinetic, and ataxic cerebral palsy.

The different types of cerebral palsy depending on the areas of the body affected include:

  • Quadriplegia: A condition involving all four extremities.
  • Diplegia: A condition that only affects the legs.
  • Hemiplegia: The extremities on one side of the body are affected.

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What are the causes of Cerebral Palsy? 

The exact cause of cerebral palsy is not known, but there may be several reasons for disruption in brain development before the birth of the child. Cerebral palsy may occur due to:

  • Inflammation in the brain 
  • A traumatic head injury or stroke (when the blood flow to the brain stops) during the first two years of life
  • Complications during birth
  • Abnormal development of the brain
  • Infections that affect the developing fetus in the uterus (womb)
  • During pregnancy, some infections such as rubella (a contagious viral infection characterized by a red rash), syphilis (bacterial infection causing painful sores in the genitals, mouth, or rectum), thyroid disorders, chickenpox can cause cerebral palsy in the baby
  • Babies having heart disorders, blood clotting disorders, or sickle cell disease (an inherited disorder that causes the red blood cells to contort into a sickle shape)
  • Severe illness in the infant
  • Prematurely born children
  • Jaundice in newborn babies

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What are the risk factors of Cerebral Palsy?

Certain factors increase the risk of developing cerebral palsy in children. These factors include:

  • Premature birth
  • Being one of the twin or triplet
  • Low birth weight
  • A low Apgar score (a score to assess the physical health of the babies at birth)
  • A breech birth (when the baby’s feet or buttocks come out first)
  • Exposure of the mother to toxic substances like methylmercury when pregnant
  • Rh incompatibility (when the mother’s blood Rh type is not compatible with the baby’s blood Rh type)

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What are the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy? 

There are many signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy. Not all symptoms are seen in the same child; they may vary. The symptoms of cerebral palsy include:

  • Exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
  • Stiff muscles
  • Too stiff or too floppy muscle tone
  • Lack of muscle coordination and balance
  • Tremors
  • Involuntary jerky movements
  • Slow, writhing movements
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, like picking up utensils or buttoning clothes
  • Favoring using one side of the body
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Delay in the development of speech
  • Difficulty with chewing, eating, or sucking
  • Excessive drooling
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Learning difficulties
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Delayed growth
  • Delay in reaching the motor skill milestones like crawling or sitting up
  • Difficulty in hearing
  • Seizures (epilepsy)
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Problems with vision
  • Pain sensations
  • Abnormal touch
  • Bladder problems like urinary incontinence (leakage of urine)
  • Bowel problems like constipation
  • Mental health disorders like emotional problems and behavioral problems

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How to diagnose Cerebral Palsy? 

  • Physical examination: The doctor asks about the symptoms and any medical illness history of the patient Also, the doctor conducts a physical examination and checks the symptoms of the patient.
  • Neurological exam: A number of tests that reflect the disorders of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). These tests help in diagnosing:
  • Deafness
  • Blurred vision
  • Delay in speech
  • Movement disorders
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): It helps in evaluating the electrical activity in the brain. It is usually performed when someone is showing signs of epilepsy causing seizures.
  • MRI scan: A powerful magnet and radio waves are used to create detailed images of the brain. It helps in diagnosing any injuries or abnormalities in the brain.
  • CT scan: It is an imaging test that helps in creating cross-sectional images of the brain. It helps in diagnosing any brain damage.
  • Cranial ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves are used to obtain images of the brain in young infants using this test.
  • Blood tests: A blood sample may be taken and tested to rule out other possible disorders such as bleeding disorders.

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What are the treatments of Cerebral Palsy? 

There is no specific treatment available for cerebral palsy (CP), but some appropriate treatment plans are recommended to improve the lives of children suffering from this condition. 

  • Medications: Medications used to lessen muscle tightness may be used for improving functional abilities, treating pain, and managing complications of cerebral palsy symptoms. The different medications used may include: 

Botox injections: 

  • The doctor may recommend Botox injections for the treatment of the tightening of a specific muscle. These injections need to be repeated every three months.
  • Botox injections when given in the salivary glands can help in reducing drooling.
  • Side effects may include flu-like symptoms, pain at the injection site, difficulty in swallowing and breathing.

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Muscle relaxants:

  • Drugs like diazepam, baclofen, dantrolene, tizanidine are often used for the relaxation of the muscles.

1. Therapies: Several therapies play an important role in the treatment of cerebral palsy, which include:

Physical therapy: 

  • Physical therapy improves muscle function in children so that they can perform their daily activities without any help. 

Occupational therapy:

  • Occupational therapy is used in the school, home, study, and behavior of the children to motivate them to engage in their daily activities and increase their confidence. 

Speech and language therapy:

  • Speech and language therapy improves the child’s speaking and language skills that reduce eating and swallowing-related problems. 

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Recreational therapy:

  • Some children can benefit from recreational sports like skiing or horseback riding. This helps in the improvement of the child’s speech, emotional well-being, and motor skills.

Surgical procedures: Surgery may be needed to correct the bone abnormalities or muscle tightness caused due to cerebral palsy. The different surgical procedures may include: 

  • Orthopedic surgery:
  • Children with severe deformities or contractures may need surgery on bones or joints for the placement of the spine, arms, legs, or hips in their correct positions.
  • Surgical procedures can also be used to lengthen the muscles and reposition or lengthen the tendons that may have been shortened by contractures.
  • The surgical corrections can help in reducing pain and improving mobility.
  • The procedures also help in making it easier to use a walker, crutches, or braces.

Selective dorsal rhizotomy:

  • In severe cases of cerebral palsy, when other methods of treatment have failed, the surgeon may cut the nerves supplying specific spastic muscles.
  • This helps in relaxing the muscles in the legs and reducing pain but may lead to numbness.

In the case of adults having cerebral palsy, treatment for certain symptoms which are more common in adults than children is required. These symptoms include:

  • Hearing and vision problems
  • Maintenance of muscle tone
  • Management of seizures
  • Oral health problems
  • Fatigue and pain
  • Heart and lung diseases
  • Orthopedic disorders like arthritis, osteoporosis, and contractures
  • Lung and heart diseases 
  • Mental health conditions like depression

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What are the complications of Cerebral Palsy?

The complications of cerebral palsy include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Joint deformities
  • Dislocation
  • Scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
  • Mental health conditions like depression
  • Heart diseases
  • Lung diseases like pneumonia
  • Osteoarthritis (degenerative bone disease)
  • Osteoporosis (fractures due to low bone density)
  • Sleep disorders
  • Skin breakdown
  • Intestinal problems
  • Oral health problems

Contact your doctor if you notice any of the above complications.

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How to prevent Cerebral Palsy? 

It is not possible to prevent cerebral palsy, but some of the risks are preventable by the following methods:

  • Women should take special care of themselves during pregnancy because if the woman is healthy, the risk of cerebral palsy in children is less. 
  • Paying attention to the child when he/she is playing to prevent any critical injury to the head. 
  • Get vaccinated against diseases like rubella to prevent infection that can cause fetal brain damage. 
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs.

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We hope we could answer all your questions about the Treatment of Cerebral Palsy through this article.

To get more information and treatment about the Treatment of Cerebral Palsy, consult a Neurologist.

We only aim to give you information through the article. We do not recommend medication or treatment in any way. Only a doctor can give you the best advice and correct treatment plan. 

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