Cerebral Palsy

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy includes a number of different childhood muscle coordination and posture development abnormalities. These occur due to injury of the developing brain. It is the most common childhood physical disability, with nearly 764,000 people in the United States diagnosed.

There are 4 main types of cerebral palsy: Spastic, Athetoid/Dyskinetic, Ataxic, and Mixed.

Spastic is the most common (70% of cases). It is due to damage to the brain’s motor cortex. This area of the brain controls the child’s body movements. Damage here can lead to spastic, stiff, and exaggerated movements.

The other three types of cerebral palsy each represent 10% of cases. The Athetoid/Dyskinetic type is due to damage to the balance and coordination brain centers. Children with this type of cerebral palsy will often present with involuntary tremors.

The Ataxic type also affects the child’s balance and coordination centers. This causes tremors and difficulty walking. Patients may have impaired speech as well.

Patients with the Mixed type of cerebral palsy exhibit traits from more than type of cerebral palsy. This can be due to injury of multiple brain regions.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Many parents may wonder what could have caused their child’s cerebral palsy. However, 20-50% of cases have unknown causes. Some common causes can occur either during pregnancy, after birth, or during the first 5 years of life. These causes include bacterial or viral infections of brain, bleeding in the brain, a lack of oxygen to the brain, exposure to drugs and alcohol, mercury poisoning from fish, parasitic infection from raw/undercooked meat, and head injuries during birth.

How is Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed?

Cerebral palsy will not be noticeable until between the ages of 18 months and 5 years of age. Parents will usually notice that their child has developmental delays. The best course of action is to speak to your child’s doctor to express your concern. Several imaging studies may be used to diagnose cerebral palsy. These tests include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scan, electroencephalogram (EEG), and ultrasound of the head.

How is Cerebral Palsy Treated?

Treatment for cerebral palsy is different for each patient. The focus of treatment is not to cure the condition, but to maximize the potential of the child. Parents are encouraged to surround their child with a team of caring specialists to help. With the right treatment, children with cerebral palsy can go on to lead to a happy life.