Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move and to maintain balance and posture. The disorders appear in the first few years of life. Usually they do not get worse over time. People with cerebral palsy may have difficulty walking. They may also have trouble with tasks such as writing or using scissors. Some have other medical conditions, including seizure disorders or mental impairment.
Cerebral palsy happens when the areas of the brain that control movement and posture do not develop correctly or get damaged. Early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before 3 years of age. Babies with cerebral palsy are often slow to roll over, sit, crawl, smile or walk. Some babies are born with cerebral palsy; others get it after they are born.
Sign & Symtoms of Cereberal Palsy
All types of cerebral palsy are characterized by abnormal muscle tone (i.e. slouching over while sitting), reflexes, or motor development and coordination. There can be joint and bone deformities and contractures (permanently fixed, tight muscles and joints). The classical symptoms are spasticities, spasms, other involuntary movements (e.g. facial gestures), unsteady gait, problems with balance, and/or soft tissue findings consisting largely of decreased muscle mass. Scissor walking (where the knees come in and cross) and toe walking (which can contribute to a gait reminiscent of a marionette) are common among people with CP who are able to walk, but taken on the whole, Babies born with severe CP often have an irregular posture; their bodies may be either very floppy or very stiff. Birth defects, such as spinal curvature, a small jawbone, or a small head sometimes occur along with CP. Symptoms may appear or change as a child gets older. Some babies born with CP do not show obvious signs right away. Classically, CP becomes evident when the baby reaches the developmental stage at six and a half to 9 months and is starting to mobilise, where preferential use of limbs, asymmetry or gross motor developmental delay is seen.
Secondary conditions can include seizures, epilepsy, apraxia, dysarthria or other communication disorders, eating problems, sensory impairments, mental retardation, learning disabilities, and/or behavioral disorders.
Speech and language disorders are common in people with Cerebral Palsy. Speech problems are associated with poor respiratory control, laryngeal and velopharyngeal dysfunction as well as oral articulation disorders that are due to restricted movement in the oral-facial muscles. There are three major types of dysarthria in cerebral palsy: spastic, dyskinetic (athetosis) and ataxic. Speech impairments in spastic dysarthria involve four major abnormalities of voluntary movement: spasticity, weakness, limited range of motion and slowness of movement. Speech mechanism impairment in athetosis involves a disorder in the regulation of breathing patterns, laryngeal dysfunction (monopitch, low, weak and breathy voice quality). It is also associated with articulatory dysfunction (large range of jaw movements), inappropriate positioning of the tongue, instability of velar elevation. Athetoid dysarthria is caused by disruption of the internal sensorimotor feedback system for appropriate motor commands, which leads to the generation of faulty movements that are perceived by others as involuntary. Ataxic dysarthria is uncommon in cerebral palsy. The speech characteristics are: imprecise consonants, irregular articulatory breakdown, distorted vowels, excess and equal stress, prolonged phonemes, slow rate, monopitch, monoloudness and harsh voice. Overall language delay is associated with problems of mental retardation, hearing impairment and learned helplessness. Children with cerebral palsy are at risk of learned helplessness and becoming passive communicators, initiating little communication.
Causes of Cereberal Palsy
- Intrauterine development (e.g. exposure to radiation, infection), asphyxia before birth,
- hypoxia of the brain, and birth trauma during labor and delivery, and
- Complications in the perinatal period or during childhood.
- Identical twin. This may occur when twins have a joint circulation through sharing the same placenta. Not all identical twins share the same blood supply (monochorionic twins), but if they do, the suggestion is that perturbations in blood flow between them can cause the death of one and damage to the development of the surviving fetus.
- Infections in the mother, even infections that are not easily detected, may triple the risk of the child developing the disorder, mainly as the result of the toxicity to the fetal brain of cytokines that are produced as part of the inflammatory response.
- Low birthweight is a risk factor for CP—and premature infants usually have low birth weights, less than 2.0 kg, but full-term infants can also have low birth weights. Multiple-birth infants are also more likely than single-birth infants to be born early or with a low birth weight.
- After birth, other causes include toxins, severe jaundice, lead poisoning, physical brain injury, shaken baby syndrome, incidents involving hypoxia to the brain (such as near drowning), and encephalitis or meningitis. The three most common causes of asphyxia in the young child are: choking on foreign objects such as toys and pieces of food, poisoning, and near drowning.
Treatment of Cereberal Palsy
There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but treatment can improve the lives of those who have it. Treatment includes medicines, braces, and physical, occupational and speech therapy.