Cerebral Palsy is a blanket term for brain damage with motor impairment. It’s typically caused due to brain injury or abnormal development before, during or immediately after birth. A child with palsy generally exhibits signs of physical as well as mental impairment. However, the kind and the extent of motor dysfunction, parts of the body and number of limbs involved, will be different among individuals. In short, every case is unique; one may be totally paralytic and dependent, whereas the other may be slightly symptomatic requiring little assistance.
Prevalence of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is the most common form of childhood neurological disorder occurring in approximately four births per thousand. The CDC has reported that it is more common in boys than in girls. About 78 percent of children identified with CP had spastic CP, whereas more than 50 percent of children with CP were associated with other conditions such as epilepsy or autism spectrum disorder. The disease causes a wide range of difficulties in walking, lack of movement coordination, low intelligence, etc.
Overall cerebral palsy can be described in a variety of ways:
Spastic CP – The most prevalent type of CP causing incredible stiffness in the muscles, probably due to faulty messages being sent from the damaged parts of the brain.
Dyskinetic CP – Categorized by abnormal involuntary movements in posture, the limbs and around the mouth.
Ataxic CP – The least common type of CP, associated with shaky movements and problems with maintaining balance.
Factors Responsible for Cerebral Palsy
Various studies have linked different causative factors for the occurrence of CP. Occurrence of CP has been linked with low birth weight and premature birth.
Some studies have revealed that children born as a part of a multiple birth pregnancy through artificial or normal reproduction have a higher chance of having CP. The disease can also be related to infections among mothers. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of CP cases are related to brain injuries after birth, often from vehicle crashes or falls.
Symptoms Associated with Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is a neurodegenerative condition associated with the progressive, irreparable damage of the nervous system. With severe forms, signs are often visible immediately after birth. However, some of the other signs of CP can follow unique patterns such as:
- Poor muscular tone as well as lack of coordination in the voluntary movements.
- Problems with maintaining proper posture and balance due to muscular stiffness as well as exaggerated reflexes.
- Difficulty in achieving milestones such as motor skills.
- Maintaining unique postures while walking such as toe walking or jump gait, crouched gait and stiff knee gait.
- Excessive drooling or difficulty in swallowing or speaking.
- Random involuntary movements such as excessive tremors, shaky hands and posture.
- Seizures, communication problems and intellectual disabilities.
It can also affect other brain functions such as:
- Visual impairment
- Hearing loss
- Difficulty in swallowing or sucking of food into the lungs
- Gastroesophageal reflux or sudden spitting up of food.
- Speech problem
- Tooth decay
- Sleep disorder
- Behavioral problems
What Goes Wrong in Cerebral Palsy?
Since no single factor has been found to be responsible for the occurrence of CP, it’s difficult to point out the specific damage of the brain, thus many different things can be synchronized together to result in the exact cause of damage. The human brain is the central processing organ, which passes on the information through its own messengers known as neurons or brain cells. These messages are passed on in the form of specific codes or signals which are decoded by the organs for their implementations. Any problem in the entire information system can lead to faulty implementation such as genetic changes in the neuronal development, faulty insulation causing nerve damage and affecting signal transmission, autoimmune damaging cells responsible in the transmission of signals, faulty connections halting the transmission of messages, etc.