Cerebral Palsy

ABOUT CEREBRAL PALSY:

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way).

CP usually is caused by brain damage that happens before or during a baby’s birth, or during the first 3 to 5 years of a child’s life. This brain damage also can lead to other health issues, including vision, hearing, and speech problems; and learning disabilities.

There is no cure for CP, but treatment, therapy, special equipment and in some cases, surgery can help kids who are living with the condition.

Cerebral palsy is one of the most common congenital (existing at or before birth) disorders of childhood. About 500,000 children in the United States have the condition.

The three types of CP are:

  1. spastic cerebral palsy — causes stiffness and movement difficulties
  2. athetoid cerebral palsy — leads to involuntary and uncontrolled movements
  3. ataxic cerebral palsy — causes a problem with balance and depth perception

Since cerebral palsy affects muscle control and coordination, even simple movements — like standing still — are difficult. Other functions that also involve motor skills and muscles — such as breathing, bladder and bowel control, eating, and talking — also may be affected when a child has CP.

CAUSES OF CEREBRAL PALSY:

The exact causes of CP aren’t always known. But many cases are the result when a fetus’ brain is either damaged or doesn’t develop normally. This can be due to infections, maternal health problems, a genetic disorder, or something else that interferes with normal brain development.

Premature babies — particularly those who weigh less than 3.3 pounds (1,510 grams) — have a higher chance of having CP than babies that are carried to term. So do other low-birthweight babies and multiple births, such as twins and triplets.

Brain damage in infancy or early childhood also can lead to CP. For example, a baby or toddler might suffer damage because of lead poisoning, bacterial meningitis, poor blood flow to the brain, being shaken as an infant (shaken baby syndrome), or being in a car accident.

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