Cerebral Palsy

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that causes problems with movement,balance,posture and muscle tone. A baby can be born with cerebral palsy or can get it later on in life.

What are the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

Symptoms of cerebral palsy may vary from one affected person to the other.

Often, these include poor coordination, muscles that are weak or stiff, and tremors. A child with CP may have problems with sensation, vision, hearing, swallowing, and speaking. In babies delay in ability to  roll over, sit, crawl or walk maybe an indication of cerebral palsy.CP may make a child have difficulties in thinking,reasoning and learning. Seizures occur in many children with CP. Constipation, difficulty controlling the bladder, and joint problems frequently accompany CP symptoms.

Cerebral palsy is lifelong. The symptoms may change or get more noticeable as the child grows but the underlying problems do not worsen over time.

Are tests done when Cerebral Palsy is suspected?

The diagnosis of cerebral palsy is usually made by the doctor after gathering information about the child’s problems and doing physical examination. Problems with movement in infancy  associated with weakness and stiffness of muscles are important clues.

Because there are other conditions that could cause problems of muscles and movement tests may be done .

A brain CT or MRI may reveal problems of the brain that may be treatable.

When seizures are present an Electroencephalography or EEG which records electrical activity of the brain may be done.

What type of Cerebral Palsy does my child have?

The type of cerebral palsy can be considered based on a variety of parameters.

Based on the level of disability that is observed  it could be mild, moderate or severe . In mild CP the child should be able to move without assistance; In moderate CP the child will need treatment interventions to be able to move; One with severe CP will have significant challenges with movement even with the best of medical interventions.

It can be based on the body parts that are affected and the degree to which movement is compromised. The body parts affected can range from just one limb to all four limbs. It may affect only one side of the body or both. The affected limb(s) may be just weak or completely paralyzed.

Another way of looking at it is whether the muscles have increased or reduced tone. When the tone of muscle is increased it  continually contracts, making the limb stiff, rigid, and resistant to flexing or relaxing. Those with reduced muscle tone tend to have involuntary movement which can be slow or fast, often repetitive, and sometimes rhythmic.

Cerebral palsy can also be classified according to an age range and a set of activities the child can achieve on his or her own. This ranges from one who can move without limitations to the one who needs extensive assistive technology to achieve basic movement.

What caused my child’s Cerebral Palsy?

It may not be possible to determine exactly  what caused cerebral palsy in a specific child. The condition is generally caused by injury or malformation of the brain. This damage occurs before, during, or immediately after birth while the infant’s brain is still developing.

What will my child’s life be like?

Children with mild symptoms can live as long as those without cerebral palsy.

The damage to the brain does not become worse over time but the problems may get more severe as the child grows. With extensive care symptoms may improve.

Children with cerebral palsy are more likely to have learning difficulties. However,some of them do not have any cognitive or intellectual impairments.

Puberty may come too early or be delayed until later for children with cerebral palsy.

The degree to which an individual with cerebral palsy can take care of himself (independence) varies. Some need help with most aspects of life while there are those who will not need much help.

Children with more serious forms of the disease may have shorter life expectancy.

How is Cerebral Palsy treated?

The goal of treatment is ultimately to maximise the individual’s ability to be independent and participate in social activities. A multidisciplinary approach involving a paediatrician, a health visitor, a social worker, a physiotherapist, a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist, a teacher with training on special needs, an educational psychologist, an orthopaedic surgeon, a neurologist and a neurosurgeon.

Treatment may include physical therapy; occupational therapy; speech therapy; medicines to control seizures, alleviate pain, or relax stiff muscles ; surgery to correct deformities or release tight muscles; special equipment to help the child move and learn.

Some children need special diets to help them gain enough weight . Others will need to be fed through special tubes.