The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood. It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements.
The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later. The early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age. It may also be caused as the result of brain damage in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, or head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse.
- Spastic: the most common type of cerebral palsy; reflexes are exaggerated and muscle movement is stiff — Spastic hemiplegia is when one side of the body is being affected, – Spastic diplegia is when the lower extremities are affected, with little to no upper-body spasticity. – Spastic monoplegia is when one limb is affected. – Spastic triplegia is when three limbs are affected. – Spastic quadriplegia is all four limbs more or less equally affected.
- Dyskinetic: dyskinetic cerebral palsy is further divided into two categories. Athetoid cerebral palsy which is marked by involuntary, slow, writhing movements and dystonic cerebral palsy where trunk movements are more affected than limb muscles, resulting in a twisted posture
- Ataxic: voluntary muscle movements are not well coordinated
- Hypotonic: muscle tone is decreased or floppy
- Mixed: combinations of the symptoms listed above
- Lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia)
- stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
- walking with one foot or leg dragging
- walking on the toes
- a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait
- muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy
Cerebral palsy cannot be cured, but treatment will often improve a child’s capabilities. In general, the earlier treatment gives better chance for the child to overcome developmental disabilities and in learning new ways to accomplish the tasks that challenge them. Treatment includes
- physical and occupational therapy
- speech therapy
- drugs to control seizures
- relax muscle spasms
- alleviate pain
- surgery to correct anatomical abnormalities or release tight muscles
- braces and other orthodontic devices, wheelchairs and rolling walkers
- communication aids such as computers with attached voice synthesizers.