Are you curious about cerebral palsy because you know someone who has a child that just received this diagnosis? Do you have questions about what the child may face in life? Are you concerned about how the parents will cope having a child with special needs? I am one of those parents and have learned to cope over the years. My daughter has diplegia cerebral palsy spastic. This diagnosis means that both sides of her body are affected by cerebral palsy and that the kind she has makes her rigid and stiff. She thankfully, has a mild case which means she can walk and run. She does so a little stiffly but unlike so many other children with cerebral palsy that can only be mobile with the use of a wheelchair or who are not mobile at all; my daughter does have a lot of freedom to participate in life because of her ability to be mobile.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy, once a child has been affected by the condition due to a brain hemorrhage at birth, or a head trauma there is no going back; the child will always have cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy means that the child has a lack of ability to coordinate body movements. The muscles may be weak and floppy, or like my daughter rigid and stiff.
Babies most at risk during birth to be born with cerebral palsy are those born at low birth weight or those born prematurely.
When a baby is born prematurely, with low birth weight or when a child suffers a brain injury doctors will look for signs of cerebral palsy such as a lack of muscle coordination when trying to perform voluntary movement. This lack of muscle coordination is called ataxia. Doctors also look for spasticity, which are stiff muscles and also exaggerated reflexes. The child may have asymmetrical walking gait or have one foot or leg that drags while walking. There may be variations in muscle tone from normal such as being too floppy or stiff. The child may have difficulty sucking, or speaking. The child may experience excessive drooling. The doctor may notice the child having muscle tremors. The child may experience difficulty with daily tasks such as buttoning, zipping or fastening garments, or writing if the child is school age.
The symptoms will not worsen as the child ages. There are other neurological disorders that may also be present such as seizures or mental problems.
The majority of children with cerebral palsy suffered some sort of brain trauma during birth or was born severely premature and had a brain hemorrhage resulting in brain damage. Other causes of cerebral palsy are accidents that result in brain injury and infections such as German measles, chickenpox, cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis and syphilis. Illnesses in young babies have also been attributed to cerebral palsy such as meningitis and viral encephalitis. Babies with congenital abnormalities can also develop cerebral palsy because the brain did not develop properly while in utero. A baby suffering from a stoke while in utero can also develop cerebral palsy because of the interruption of the flow of blood to the baby. A lack of oxygen is another cause of cerebral palsy when the baby is deprived of oxygen during labor due to a cord accident but this is just a small percentage of the incidents of cerebral palsy. If a baby develops severe jaundice that is not treated brain damage can occur resulting in cerebral palsy.
Babies at risk for cerebral palsy include those born prematurely, those born with low birth weights, those who are delivered breech, higher-order multiples such as twins, triplets and higher especially when one or more of the multiples dies in utero. If while pregnant the mom is exposed to toxins such as mercury the fetus is at increased risk for cerebral palsy. Babies born to moms who have thyroid problems, or seizures are at increased risk for cerebral palsy.
Miller G. Clinical features and diagnosis of cerebral palsy. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html