Cerebral Palsy: Types, Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Checkmark Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Sravanthi Sunkaraneni

There are approximately 18 million people living with cerebral palsy. It is estimated that the incidence of cerebral palsy is in 1 in every 500 births.

Introduction

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition that impacts a person’s ability to move, balance, and maintain posture. It is one of the most common disabilities found in children. The word “cerebral” means brain and the word “palsy” means paralysis. The difficulties in cerebral palsy are a result of muscle weakness caused due to abnormalities in the brain leading to inability of the brain to control muscles. This abnormality could be because of the damage to a developing brain or faulty development of the brain.

The abnormalities seen in cerebral palsy are not the same in all the people with the disease. Persons with this disease may need assistance to stand, walk, or sometimes they may be unable to walk at all, necessitating lifelong care. 

While the symptoms of cerebral palsy may change during a person’s lifetime, they do not get worse. Cerebral palsy mainly affects movement and posture, which is a common condition found in all the people who have cerebral palsy. Many people also suffer from intellectual disabilities, seizures, visual, hearing, or speech difficulties and abnormalities in the spine or joints.

Types

  1. Spastic cerebral palsy: This is the most common type where the affected  muscles are stiff, making movement difficult and limiting the range of motion.
  2. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: In this type, there are uncontrollable bodily movements or spasms.
  3. Ataxic cerebral palsy: In this type, the balance and coordination are impaired, causing unsteady or awkward movements as well as tremors.
  4. Mixed cerebral palsy: When a person has signs of more than one form of cerebral palsy, they are said to have mixed cerebral palsy.

Symptoms

  1. Delay in attaining developmental milestones, such as not being able to sit by 8 months or walk by 18 months
  2. Stiff or floppy (hypotonia) baby
  3. Sloppy, jerky, and fidgety movements
  4. Movements that are random and uncontrollable
  5. Muscle spasms
  6. Inability to bring hands together
  7. Walking on tiptoes

Causes

The abnormal brain development or damage to the growing brain that causes cerebral palsy can be the result of a number of factors.

  1. Oxygen deprivation to the brain 
  2. Faulty brain development or injury that occurs before or during birth

Risk Factors

  1. Premature delivery or low birth weight: Cerebral palsy is more common in premature babies (those born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and babies who weigh less than 5.5 pounds (or 2.5 kg) at birth.
  2. Multiple pregnancy: Cerebral palsy is more common in twins, triplets, and other multiple births. An infant’s risk is greater when a twin or triplet dies before or shortly after birth.
  3. Treatments for infertility: Infants born from assisted pregnancies using certain infertility therapies have a higher risk of cerebral palsy than infants born from natural conception.
  4. Infections during pregnancy
  5. Having a fever during pregnancy
  6. Toxic chemical exposure: The fetus is more likely to develop cerebral palsy if the mother is exposed to dangerous   substances during pregnancy including cigarette smoke.
  7. Abnormal thyroid function during pregnancy.
  8. Increased urine protein during pregnancy
  9. Difficult labor: Cerebral palsy can occur in babies who have heart or respiratory issues during labor or shortly after birth.

Complications

Complications related to cerebral palsy are as follows

  1. People with cerebral palsy develop mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
  2. Early aging
  3. Osteoarthritis
  4. Malnutrition
  5. Lung and breathing problems
  6. High blood pressure
  7. Stroke
  8. Speed disabilities
  9. Difficulty swallowing

Diagnosis

Some test are performed to diagnose the cerebral palsy

  1. Cerebral palsy can be diagnosed with a brain scan.
  2. A cranial ultrasound scan that uses a small handheld device to view an infant’s brain by moving it over the top of their head.
  3. MRIs to provide a detailed image of the brain using a magnetic field.
  4. A CT scan to create a detailed image of the brain by the combination of many X-ray images.
  5. An electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor brain activity that detects epilepsy.
  6. Electromyography (EMG) to assess muscle functioning. 

Treatment

  1. Physiotherapy can be used to assist, maintain and perhaps enhance movement. It is one of the most beneficial cerebral palsy therapies. Physiotherapy provides benefits like improvement of muscle strength and prevention of its weakness, preventing muscles from shortening and losing range of motion (contracture), etc. A physiotherapist may recommend walking aids (such as a walking frame or walking sticks) as well as arm or leg braces known as orthoses to support the limbs if required.
  2. Therapy for speech and language: People who have difficulty communicating may benefit from speech and language therapy.

Prevention

  1. Regular visits to the doctor during pregnancy and during the first year of the infant’s life after birth can help detect any risk factors early. 
  2. Adequate monitoring of the mother and the baby during delivery.

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Disclaimer
Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can further read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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