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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy can be a genetic disorder that can affect the ability of an afflicted child to move his or her body in a usual manner.  This article will provide a general overview of some of the different types of cerebral palsy that exist, the symptoms of those types and some general treatment options used to manage the disorder in individuals who have it.  This article should be considered as a starting point for those who are looking to gain further information about cerebral palsy and in addition to this article it is recommended that they use as many reputable sources of information as are available to them in order to get a comprehensive look at this complex disorder.  As always, should you require immediate medical advice or attention it is recommended that you contact a trained, qualified, certified and licensed health care professional such as your family physician.

Cerebral palsy is a category of disorders that are developmental in nature and are a result of brain damage that can either occur as the fetus develops in the womb or shortly after birth.  As with the vast majority of genetic disorders, cerebral palsy is not curable, however there are treatment options available to improve the quality of life for those individuals who have been inflicted by this disorder.

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

As previously mentioned there are a number of forms of cerebral palsy including hypotonic cerebral palsy, spastic cerebral palsy and united cerebral palsy.  However three most common forms of the disorder are spastic cerebral palsy, athetotic cerebral palsy and ataxic cerebral palsy.  In the first one stiff muscles affect the movement of the legs or as much as the entire body.  In the second one, also known as extrapyramidal cerebral palsy, the entire body is affected by slow uncontrollable movements.  The third type of cerebral palsy is the least common of the three and generally affects balance and coordination in the afflicted individual.

It is also sometimes the case that individuals who have cerebral palsy may in fact have a number of kinds of cerebral palsy and as a result there are a number of variable symptoms of cerebral palsy that also vary in their severity depending on an individual’s specific experience of the disorder.  According to the Mayo Clinic, some of these symptoms, which do not change as the child ages, can include a lack of coordination, known as ataxia, a stiffness of the muscles and poor reflexes, difficulty walking, variable muscle tone, and a tendency to drool and have difficulty speaking or swallowing.  In addition, individuals with cerebral palsy may also experience tremors and associatively may have difficulty performing actions which require fine motor skills.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy has no one direct cause but in general it is a result of either an abnormality of some kind or an injury that is present in the cerebrum, which is the part of the brain that affects things such as the kind of muscle movements that were mentioned in the symptoms section of this article.  It should be emphasized that it is the brain and not the muscles themselves that are affected.  Of the many potential causes of cerebral palsy, some include the infection of the mother during pregnancy with a virus of some kind, jaundice in newborn infants as a result of an infection, genetic causes that may result in brain abnormalities as well as some kind of stroke or stroke like effects in the baby prior to its being born.

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP)

The unity cerebral palsy organization, better known as UCP or United Cerebral Palsy is an advocacy group committed to improving the lives of individuals affected by cerebral palsy and more broadly looks to help any individual who has a disability.  It is a very large charity in the United States and can be found at its website: http://www.ucp.org.

Treating Cerebral Palsy

Given that cerebral palsy is an incurable disorder, it is important that treatment options for individuals who have cerebral palsy be focussed upon the individual experience of the symptoms of the disorder with the appropriate therapies and aids.  In severe cases surgery of various kinds may be required in order allow afflicted joints and limbs to settle into a more natural position and to aid in functioning on a day to day basis.  In cases that are not severe enough to warrant surgical procedures some medications such as muscle relaxants may prove beneficial for those who are afflicted with the physical symptoms of cerebral palsy due to stiffness in the muscles.  In addition, there are a number of assistive devices, such as various bars and grips and special clothing such as shoes with Velcro, as well as aids for walking or any other physical activity that the individual with cerebral palsy may have some difficulty performing.  In cases where eyesight or hearing is affected it may be necessary that the individual with cerebral palsy have some form of hearing aid or some form of surgery or potentially only corrective lenses in order to deal with difficulty seeing as a result of the disorder.  Often a speech therapist will also be required as difficulty speaking is one of the characteristic challenges faced by individuals with cerebral palsy.  Speech therapists can help with the communicative challenges that are faced by those with cerebral palsy and in addition may also be able to help in other related areas such as difficulty masticating and swallowing food which can be a difficulty in some cases of cerebral palsy.  Other therapies may also be required such as physical therapy in order to help those with cerebral palsy be able to improve the difficulties in walking and other fine and other motor skills that can be quite impaired depending on the severity of the cerebral palsy that the individual in question is afflicted with.  A related therapy is occupational therapy which can help those with cerebral palsy become more independent in their daily life.