Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder seen in children which affects their ability to control their muscles and movements. Cerebral palsy is usually caused due to the damage which occurs to the child’s brain during its development. The brain damage can be caused by the brain injury or abnormal development of the brain while it is still developing before birth, during birth or immediately after the birth.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy:
The cause of cerebral palsy cannot be known exactly. But since it is due to the brain damage or a problem with the development in the parts of the brain which control the muscle movements, some of the reasons for brain damage which causes cerebral palsy are listed below:
- Premature birth of child in which brain isn’t fully developed
- Exposure of mother to certain viruses during pregnancy
- Improper development of child’s brain during pregnancy
- Lack of oxygen supply to the baby’s brain during delivery
- A disruption of blood supply to the developing brain during pregnancy which is referred as fetal stroke.
- Infant infections that leads to inflammation in or around the brain
- A head injury to an infant or during the early years of childhood.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy:
The signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary greatly from child to child. The two main symptoms are lack of motor skills (which is the ability to move in a coordinated and proper way) and neurological problems. Children with cerebral palsy can exhibit signs during their infancy or preschool years. The symptoms of cerebral palsy usually seen in many children may include:
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Excessive drooling and difficulty in swallowing
- Variations in muscle tone i.e. either too stiff or too floppy
- Delays in reaching motor skills milestones and speech development
- Difficulty with vision and hearing
- Intellectual disabilities
- Urinary incontinence
Every child with cerebral palsy is unique and has different disabilities related to neurological development and muscle coordination. One child may have total paralysis and require constant care, while the other has partial disability. Cerebral palsy is considered as the non-life threatening condition as it will not improve or worse during the lifetime. But the associated conditions may worsen over time if left untreated.
Risks and Complications:
Certain infections or other health problems during pregnancy can significantly increase the risk of baby to get cerebral palsy. Some of the factors associated with an increased risk of cerebral palsy are:
- During pregnancy if the mother experiences certain contagious infections such as chickenpox, herpes, zika virus infection, baby can develop cerebral palsy.
- Infants or newborns with jaundice and viral infections which causes inflammation in or around the brain are at higher risk to develop cerebral palsy.
- Different conditions during pregnancy such as multiple babies, low birth weight, premature birth and complicated delivery can have increased risk for cerebral palsy.
The associated disabilities with cerebral palsy will greatly contribute to number of other complications during childhood or later during adulthood. Some of complications may include:
- As children with cerebral palsy have difficulty in swallowing, it is difficult to meet the daily nutrition requirement which results in malnutrition.
- Eye muscle imbalance which affects visual fixation and tracking.
- Abnormal alignment of joints from muscle may lead to osteoarthritis.
- Facing challenges of coping with disabilities may result in mental depression.
Usually doctors diagnose children with cerebral palsy by observing their disabilities. But they would recommend taking Brain scans such as MRI and cranial ultrasound which helps to get the images of brain. If a child has seizures, the doctor may order an EEG to determine if he or she has epilepsy. Some additional tests are also done to identify other impairments and developmental delays.
The disabilities caused by cerebral palsy are manageable and can be treated by certain therapies, surgeries and medications for a great extent. Hence, the early detection and treatment of symptoms which represents cerebral palsy enhances the quality of life.