Cerebral palsy is a general term that refers to a group of disorders, also known as “palsies”, which affect muscle tone, motor skills and movement. Actually it refers to any neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and body movement.
Neurological disorders are caused by damage in the brain and the nervous system. But the same damage of the nervous system that leads to cerebral palsy can also lead to other problems like speech, hearing and vision problems as well as learning disabilities.
The exact cause of the cerebral palsy is not known but scientists and researchers have found evidence which support theories that birth injuries, poor oxygen supply and infections during pregnancy and after pregnancy could be the most important factors. Although it’s not always detected until months later, most children are born with it.
The causes are related to what happens to the baby in the womb. Only a few numbers of children have cerebral palsy due to brain damage during the first months of life. Usually the signs and symptoms are visible before reaching 3 years old.
Common Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
The most common symptoms are spasticity (exaggerated reflexes), tight or stiff muscles, ataxia, leg dragging or walking with one foot, muscle tone that is either too floppy or too stiff, a crouched gait and scissor walking or walking on toes. Also it can involve irritability, seizures, jitteriness, lethargy, feeding, respiratory and speech problems.
The cerebral palsy symptomatology is very diverse. The effects of cerebral palsy can range from mild clumsiness to impairments so severe that the coordination is nearly impossible. Children born with a severe form of cerebral palsy have an irregular posture. They are either very stiff or very floppy. Along with cerebral palsy, birth defects such as a small jawbone, spinal curvature or a small head.
Based on symptoms there are more types of cerebral palsy: hypotonic, spastic, choreoathetoid and mixed types.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy as of yet. In order to manage and treat cerebral palsy a large variety of treatment might be required and you should seek the help of a neurologist for better understanding of the disorder and for a better treatment as someone might need a whole team for help. For a better understanding of the disease and a proper treatment people should seek the specialist assistance of a neurologist.
The treatment usually focuses on how to improve a child’s overall health and quality of life. Therefore the goal of the treatments will be to: manage primary conditions, control pain, optimize mobility, foster self-care, maximize independence, maximize ability to communicate, prevent and manage complications and enhance social interactions.
The treatment might involve medication therapy and surgery. Usually medication consists of botulinum toxin injections that are meant to reduce the possible panful muscle hypertonus. This can facilitate the use of orthotics and bracing. Also anticonvulsants, diazepam and bisphosphonates could be used too.
There many programs that might be necessary in the cases of cerebral palsy such as physiotherapy, massage therapy, occupational therapy, biofeedback, speech therapy and conductive education.
To help with many problems in the case of cerebral palsy surgery is needed many times. Usually it involves one or more procedures to correct problems like tight muscles and fixed joints. Sometimes children will need a baclofen pump inserted in the left abdomen. Surgery could also be needed to straighten abnormally twisted leg bones. Sometimes if a muscles is severely affected rhizotomy might be recommended.
Orthotics device are often prescribed to help children with cerebral palsy.