Let's learn about cerebral palsy!

Let's learn about cerebral palsy!

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a term used to cover several neurological conditions. These conditions are caused before, during or shortly after birth as a result of injury to the brain due to any of the following reasons:

  • Limited or interrupted oxygen supply to the brain
  • A bleed within the baby's brain
  • A premature or difficult birth process
  • The mother catching an infection whilst pregnant
  • Changes in genes which affect the development of the brain

Cerebral Palsy can affect muscle control, coordination, and tone, reflexes, posture and balance. Often a person with Cerebral Palsy will display signs of the condition, but the effects can vary greatly from person to person.

What are the different types of cerebral palsy?

The NHS describes three different categories of Cerebral Palsy, it is also possible to have a combination of categories which is referred to as 'Mixed Cerebral Palsy'.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy
This affects muscle stiffness or weakness.
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy
This affects muscle tone, causing involuntary spasms.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
This affects balance and coordination. 

The effect Cerebral Palsy has on individuals ranges from the very mild, to more severe cases that can make it difficult for people to control their limbs.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy

The symptoms of cerebral palsy are not usually obvious just after a baby is born. They normally become noticeable during the first 2 or 3 years of a child's life. Symptoms can include:

  • delays in reaching development milestones – for example, not sitting by 8 months or not walking by 18 months
  • seeming too stiff or too floppy
  • weak arms or legs
  • fidgety, jerky or clumsy movements
  • random, uncontrolled movements
  • walking on tiptoes
  • a range of other problems – such as swallowing difficulties, speaking problems, vision problems and learning disabilities
The severity of symptoms can vary significantly. Some people only have minor problems, while others may be severely disabled.
Causes of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy can happen if a baby's brain does not develop normally while they're in the womb, or is damaged during or soon after birth. Causes of cerebral palsy include:

  • bleeding in the baby's brain or reduced blood and oxygen supply to their brain
  • an infection caught by the mother during pregnancy
  • the brain temporarily not getting enough oxygen (asphyxiation) during a difficult birth
  • meningitis
  • a serious head injury
But in many cases, the exact cause is not clear.

Treatments for cerebral palsy

There's currently no cure for cerebral palsy, but treatments are available to help people with the condition be as active and independent as possible. Treatments include:

  • physiotherapy – techniques such as exercise and stretching to help maintain physical ability and hopefully improve movement problems
  • speech therapy to help with speech and communication, and swallowing difficulties
  • occupational therapy – where a therapist identifies problems that you or your child have carrying out everyday tasks, and suggests ways to make these easier
  • medicine for muscle stiffness and other difficulties
  • in some cases, surgery to treat movement or growth problems
A team of healthcare professionals will work with you to come up with a treatment plan that meets your or your child's needs.
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